Have you ever idly wondered whether your dog knows when you’re lying or if you’re hiding something from them? Plot twist: you were right to.
That’s because a new study from the University of Vetinary Medicine in Vienna, published in journal Animal Cognition, has found that dogs know when we’re hiding information from them and can more or less read our goddamn minds.
It’s related to “theory of mind” – the idea that people can attribute specific mental states to themselves and other people. Humans can guess what motivates other humans, basically, and from this make a good assumption about how they’re going to behave. And the study suggests that dogs also have that ability.
The Guesser-Knower paradigm was used to test the dogs’ knowledge of what was going on.
“One human, designated the "Guesser," leaves the room, and the other, the "Knower," baits one of several containers,” researchers explain. “The containers are screened so that the animal can see who does the baiting, but not where the food has been placed.”
“After baiting, the Guesser returns to the room, the screen is removed, and each human points directly at a container. The Knower points at the baited container, and the Guesser at one of the other three, chosen at random. The animal is allowed to search one container and to keep the food if it is found.”
This basically means that the dog had to look at the two humans and work out who knows what – a key part of Theory of Mind. And they were successful about 70% of the time – which researchers say means they were able to “evaluate the perspectives” of the two humans and acted accordingly.
Researchers say that it’s “still an open question” as to whether dogs can work out what humans know and don’t know, but that there’s “solid evidence” for it. So watch out for your dog – the sneaky fucker probably knows exactly what you’re up to.