Do Domestic Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) Perceive Numerosity Illusions?

Miina Lõoke, Lieta Marinelli, Carla Eatherington, Christian Agrillo, Paolo Mongillo (2020) Animals


Recent studies have showed that domestic dogs are only scantly susceptible to visual illusions, suggesting that the perceptual mechanisms might be different in humans and dogs. However, to date, none of these studies have utilized illusions that are linked to quantity discrimination. In the current study, we tested whether dogs are susceptible to a linear version of the Solitaire illusion, a robust numerosity illusion experienced by most humans. In the first experiment, we tested dogs’ ability to discriminate items in a 0.67 and 0.75 numerical ratio. The results showed that dogs’ quantity discrimination abilities fall in between these two ratios. In Experiment 2, we presented the dogs with the Solitaire illusion pattern using a spontaneous procedure. No evidence supporting any numerosity misperception was found. This conclusion was replicated in Experiment 3, where we manipulated dogs’ initial experience with the stimuli and their contrast with the background. The lack of dogs’ susceptibility to the Solitaire illusion suggests that numerical estimation of dogs is not influenced by the spatial arrangement of the items to be enumerated. In view of the existing evidence, the effect may be extended to dogs’ quantitative abilities at large.

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