Local Dot Motion, Not Global Configuration, Determines Dogs’ Preference for Point-Light Displays

Carla Eatherington, Lieta Marinelli, Miina Looke, Luca Battaglini, Paolo Mongillo (2019) Animals, 9:661


Visual perception remains an understudied area of dog cognition, particularly the perception of biological motion where the small amount of previous research has created an unclear impression regarding dogs’ visual preference towards different types of point-light displays. To date, no thorough investigation has been conducted regarding which aspects of the motion contained in point-light displays attract dogs. To test this, pet dogs (N= 48) were presented with pairs of point-light displays with systematic manipulation of motion features (ie, upright or inverted orientation, coherent or scrambled configuration, human or dog species). Results revealed a significant effect of inversion, with dogs directing significantly longer looking time towards upright than inverted dog point-light displays; no effect was found for scrambling or the scrambling-inversion interaction. No looking time bias was found when dogs were presented with human point-light displays, regardless of their orientation or configuration. The results of the current study imply that dogs’ visual preference is driven by the motion of individual dots in accordance with gravity, rather than the point-light display’s global arrangement, regardless their long exposure to human motion.

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