Audience effects on dog facial expressions

23 10 2017

Just as for smiling in humans, alarm calling in chickens and many other signals, having an audience (here, a human rather than a member of their own species) potentiates facial expressions in dogs. This has been revealed in a new paper in Scientific Reports  (nicely covered by the Guardian here).

I’d love to now know if dogs produce different expressions for humans than they do for other dogs, and whether associative learning plays a role (since I’m convinced — not least as cats are so good at tailoring what they do to what pushes our buttons — that Sylvie makes cute faces when she notices me looking at her, which I then totally reinforce with cuddles).  Thanks to Jamie for passing this on!

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A cleverness of ravens

21 07 2017

Screenshot 2017-07-21 08.07.38Nice new work out in Science last week:

Resting rich face

15 07 2017

Interesting new research from UoT published here, and written up for popular consumption here: being comfortably off makes you look happier. Amazing (and sad) that they found effects in people so young.

Biphasic sleep!

12 07 2017

I’m normal! Wish someone had told me this years ago:

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Found while actually looking for this information, heard on the BBC and apparently out in Proc. Roy. Soc. B today:



Cows will work hard to roam on pasture

8 07 2017

Missed this when it came out! Lovely ‘max price paid’ work from Nina & Dan at UBC:

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The semi-domestication of cats

21 06 2017

Nice article based on a new paper, with thanks to Jamie for this find.

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Bottom-watching: a sign of intelligence?

19 04 2017

Screenshot 2017-04-07 11.27.05

A couple of weeks ago the GTA Animal Cognition Reading Group met to discuss new work on mirror self-recognition, led by Noam Miller. Despite my love of this group I could not go due to piles of undone marking (going to Toronto can be a 3 hour round trip, sometimes more).

I did read the articles though: a nice compromise. A box by Sara Shettleworth, featuring her usual crisp logic, argued that mirror self-recognition is no more a sign of self-awareness than brachiation (or any task where an animal displays a fine appreciation of where all its bodyparts are).  And this was somewhat echoed by the main paper of focus: research in PNAS by Chang and colleagues, in which rhesus monkeys were trained to use mirrors.  This paper convincingly showed that monkeys can learn to understand that reflections are salient, and even that the image in it is somehow themselves. But since this only emerged through extensive training, it’s hard to know what (if anything) this really says about the abilities of other species: is some kind of intelligent self-awareness really revealed by using a mirror to inspect your bottom?