BUDAPEST, Hungary — Do dogs see the world in the same way as humans? For some, the answer is yes! A new study reveals that “smarter” canines process information similarly to people.
Researchers from the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University studied how dogs interpret gestures, particularly pointing, compared to human toddlers. The phenomenon under investigation is known as “spatial bias,” which is the tendency to interpret information in relation to space, location, or distance, even when the same information could apply to an object.
In simple terms, it’s about how dogs and children react when someone points to the position of an object. While children quickly understand that the gesture points to the object itself, dogs tend to view it as a directional cue, indicating a specific direction to move. This distinction has been observed in dogs through various behavioral tests, but this study takes a deeper dive into the phenomenon.
“This is manifested, for example, in the way dogs and children react to gestures when we show them the position of an object,” says study first author Ivaylo Iotchev in a university release. “Very early on, children interpret the gesture as pointing to the object, while dogs take the pointing as a directional cue. In other words, regardless of the intention of the person giving the cue, the meaning for children and dogs is different. This phenomenon has previously been observed in dogs using a variety of behavioral tests, ranging from simple associative learning to imitation, but it had never been studied per se.”