Hare, B., Plyusnina, I., Ignacio, N., Schepina, O., Stepika, A., Wrangham, R., & Trut, L. (2005). Social cognitive evolution in captive foxes is a correlated by- product of experimental domestication. Current Biology, 15(3), 226-230.
Dogs have an unusual ability for reading human communicative gestures (e.g., pointing) in comparison to either nonhuman primates (including chimpanzees) or wolves [1-8]. Although this unusual communicative ability seems to have evolved during domestication [6, 8], it is unclear whether this evolution occurred as a result of direct selection for this ability, as previously hypothesized , or as a correlated by-product of selection against fear and aggression toward humans -as is the case with a number of morphological and physiological changes associated with domestication [11-18]. We show here that fox kits from an experimental population selectively bred over 45 years to approach humans fearlessly and nonaggressively (i.e., experimentally domesticated) are not only as skillful as dog puppies in using human gestures but are also more skilled than fox kits from a second, control population not bred for tame behavior (critically, neither population of foxes was ever bred or tested for their ability to use human gestures) [11, 12]. These results suggest that sociocognitive evolution has occurred in the experimental foxes, and possibly domestic dogs, as a correlated by-product of selection on systems mediating fear and aggression, and it is likely the observed social cognitive evolution did not require direct selection for improved social cognitive ability.
Kaminski, J., Call, J., & Fischer, J. (2004). Word learning in a domestic dog: Evidence for "fast mapping". Science, 304(5677), 1682-1683.
During speech acquisition, children form quick and rough hypotheses about the meaning of a new word after only a single exposure - a process dubbed "fast mapping." Here we provide evidence that a border collie, Rico, is able to fast map. Rico knew the labels of over 200 different items. He inferred the names of novel items by exclusion learning and correctly retrieved those items right away as well as 4 weeks after the initial exposure. Fast mapping thus appears to be mediated by general learning and memory mechanisms also found in other animals and not by a language acquisition device that is special to humans.
Kaminski, J., Call, J., & Tomasello, M. (2004). Body orientation and face orientation: two factors controlling apes' begging behavior from humans. Animal Cognition, 7(4), 216-223.
A number of animal species have evolved the cognitive ability to detect when they are being watched by other individuals. Precisely what kind of information they use to make this determination is unknown. There is particular controversy in the case of the great apes because different studies report conflicting results. In experiment 1, we presented chimpanzees, orangutans, and bonobos with a situation in which they had to request food from a human observer who was in one of various attentional states. She either stared at the ape, faced the ape with her eyes closed, sat with her back towards the ape, or left the room. In experiment 2, we systematically crossed the observer's body and face orientation so that the observer could have her body and/or face oriented either towards or away from the subject. Results indicated that apes produced more behaviors when they were being watched. They did this not only on the basis of whether they could see the experimenter as a whole, but they were sensitive to her body and face orientation separately. These results suggest that body and face orientation encode two different types of information. Whereas face orientation encodes the observer's perceptual access, body orientation encodes the observer's disposition to transfer food. In contrast to the results on body and face orientation, only two of the tested subjects responded to the state of the observer's eyes.
Kaminski, J., Riedel, J., Call, J., & Tomasello, M. (2005). Domestic goats, Capra hircus, follow gaze direction and use social cues in an object choice task. Animal Behaviour, 69, 11- 18.
Gaze following is a basic social cognitive skill with many potential benefits for animals that live in social groups. At least five primate species are known to follow the gaze of conspecifics, but there have been no studies on gaze following in other mammals. We investigated whether domestic goats can use the gaze direction of a conspecific as a cue to find food. They were able to do this, at a level comparable to that off primates. In a second experiment, we tested goats' ability to use gaze and other communicative cues given by a human in a so- called object choice situation. An experimenter hid food out of sight of the subject under one of two cups. After baiting the cup the experimenter indicated the location of the food to the subject by using different cues. The goats used communicative cues (touching and pointing) but not gaze by itself. Since domestic dogs are very skilled in this task, whereas wolves are not, one hypothesis is that the use of communicative cues in the object choice task is a side-effect of domestication. (C) 2004 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.