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Title: An assessment of learning in dogs in relation to cues conveyed by humans
Authors: Ashton, Rebecca Louise
Supervisors: De Lillo, Carlo
Prados, Jose
Award date: 4-Jan-2017
Presented at: University of Leicester
Abstract: In some instances, dogs show proficient skill in search tasks involving object permanence and gestures from humans, yet it is unclear the extent to which they rely on associative learning to solve these tasks. To address this issue, the Mediational Learning Paradigm (Rumbaugh, 1984) was modified to include 1) object cues 2) human communicative cues and 3) non-social physical cues. In the initial discrimination, two containers were presented at locations A and B with reward contingency A+B-. Once a specified performance criterion was met, the rewarded location was switched and three conditions were presented: the original locations (A-B+), and each location paired with a novel location (A-C+, B+D-). Associative learning predicted low performance in A-B+ due to pre-existing tendency to search A and avoid B, where novel location conditions involve only one of these. Alternatively, associative strategy would predict equal performance in all conditions, as search is informed by object cues or human gestures. In the absence of any cues, dogs relied on associative learning, and the same was true when object cues were presented at the point of reversal. Communicative gestures from humans led dogs to shift away from associative processes, supporting the notion dogs have a comprehension in socio-communication with humans. However, after cue duration was matched with an object cue, dogs were also able to override associative learning without a socio-communicative cue. Additionally, non-social physical cues in the reversal phase were sufficient for dogs to override the effects of associative learning, but dogs were not able to discriminate based on these cues alone. These results suggest that when food location changes, dogs are prone to search the same location even when there are cues indicating the correct location. Dogs comprehend human pointing cues, but require explicit cues to break away from associative learning as a search strategy. Social cues maximise the chances of searching correctly, but they can also benefit from explicit non-social cues.
Type: Thesis
Level: Doctoral
Qualification: PhD
Rights: Copyright © the author. All rights reserved.
Appears in Collections:Leicester Theses
Theses, School of Psychology

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