Friday, January 9, 2009

Dogs Feel Envy, Austrian Study Finds

Red Setter Ch. Desperado and Bearcat

Research conducted in Austria has shown that feeding a dog in the presence of another dog can ellicit feelings of envy in the deprived dog... here's an abstract of the research:

The Absence Of Reward Induces Inequity Aversion In Dogs

by Friederike Rangea, Lisa Horna, Zsófia Viranyib, and Ludwig Hubera

(Department of Neurobiology and Cognition Research, University of Vienna, A-1091 Wien, Austria)


One crucial element for the evolution of cooperation may be the sensitivity to others' efforts and payoffs compared with one's own costs and gains. Inequity aversion is thought to be the driving force behind unselfish motivated punishment in humans constituting a powerful device for the enforcement of cooperation. Recent research indicates that non-human primates refuse to participate in cooperative problem-solving tasks if they witness a conspecific obtaining a more attractive reward for the same effort. However, little is known about non-primate species, although inequity aversion may also be expected in other cooperative species. Here, we investigated whether domestic dogs show sensitivity toward the inequity of rewards received for giving the paw to an experimenter on command in pairs of dogs. We found differences in dogs tested without food reward in the presence of a rewarded partner compared with both a baseline condition (both partners rewarded) and an asocial control situation (no reward, no partner), indicating that the presence of a rewarded partner matters. Furthermore, we showed that it was not the presence of the second dog but the fact that the partner received the food that was responsible for the change in the subjects' behavior. In contrast to primate studies, dogs did not react to differences in the quality of food or effort. Our results suggest that species other than primates show at least a primitive version of inequity aversion, which may be a precursor of a more sophisticated sensitivity to efforts and payoffs of joint interactions.

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