Context specificity of inhibitory control in dogs

Emily E. Bray, Evan L. MacLean, Brian A. Hare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations

Abstract

Across three experiments, we explored whether a dog's capacity for inhibitory control is stable or variable across decision-making contexts. In the social task, dogs were first exposed to the reputations of a stingy experimenter that never shared food and a generous experimenter who always shared food. In subsequent test trials, dogs were required to avoid approaching the stingy experimenter when this individual offered (but withheld) a higher-value reward than the generous experimenter did. In the A-not-B task, dogs were required to inhibit searching for food in a previously rewarded location after witnessing the food being moved from this location to a novel hiding place. In the cylinder task, dogs were required to resist approaching visible food directly (because it was behind a transparent barrier), in favor of a detour reaching response. Overall, dogs exhibited inhibitory control in all three tasks. However, individual scores were not correlated between tasks, suggesting that context has a large effect on dogs' behavior. This result mirrors studies of humans, which have highlighted intra-individual variation in inhibitory control as a function of the decision-making context. Lastly, we observed a correlation between a subject's age and performance on the cylinder task, corroborating previous observations of age-related decline in dogs' executive function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-31
Number of pages17
JournalAnimal Cognition
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Canine
  • Cognition
  • Domestic dogs
  • Inhibitory control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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