Hierarchical stimulus processing by dogs (canis familiaris)

Pitteri E, Mongillo P, Carnier P, & Marinelli L (2014)
Animal cognition, 17(4), 869-877


The purpose of this study was to assess the visual processing of global and local levels of hierarchical stimuli in domestic dogs. Fourteen dogs were trained to recognise a compound stimulus in a simultaneous conditioned discrimination procedure and were then tested for their local/global preference in a discrimination test. As a group, dogs showed a non-significant trend for global precedence, although large inter-individual variability was observed. Choices in the test were not affected by either dogs’ sex or the type of stimulus used for training. However, the less time a dog took to complete the discrimination training phase, the higher the probability that it chose the global level of test stimulus. Moreover, dogs that showed a clear preference for the global level in the test were significantly less likely to show positional responses during discrimination training. These differences in the speed of acquisition and response patterns may reflect individual differences in the cognitive requirements during discrimination training. The individual variability in global/local precedence suggests that experience in using visual information may be more important than predisposition in determining global/local processing in dogs.

Dog, Global precedence, Hierarchical stimulus, Learning, Visual cognition

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