Episode 123 (video): What Does Your Dog Know About You?

MichaelCognition, Intelligence and Language, Development15 Comments

What do your dog and Shakespeare have in common? Well, they both use a Theory of Mind. Join me for this video episode in which I look at this fascinating idea of theory of mind and the unique and fun research that has been done around it. And yes, you might pick up an idea of how to test your dog to see if your dog can actually read your mind.

Theory of Mind

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15 Comments on “Episode 123 (video): What Does Your Dog Know About You?”

  1. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I think the spot thing is the sort of thing they do with chimps and elephants to see if they recognise themselves.

    In that RadioLab episode I listened to recently they interviewed a guy who suggested that kids don’t actually ‘think’ until they’re 6 or 7 (that statement, of course, needs a bit of unpacking, so I highly recommend listening to the ep), and it was fascinating to listen to. They also had a story about a deaf guy who never realised that everything has a name (that we give it) until he was in his 30s. Amazing stuff. I think these are the relevant links: http://www.radiolab.org/2010/aug/09/ and (ah, this is it) http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2010/sep/07/voices-in-your-head/

  2. Experimenting on kids – I agree. I can’t believe that I forgot to do the whole Piaget thing (object permanence, conservation of energy, etc.) on my kids when they were the right age! Could have filmed it. Oh well, missed opportunity there.

    I like the spot on the forehead thing – hadn’t heard of that before. Good one.

  3. Thanks but I can’t claim the story as my own. I can’t remember where I heard it (old RadioLab podcasts, I think), but it sparked my memory that I was going to re-run the test on her. I think she identified with the toys and big and little siblings a bit more that the dog story, but maybe that was simply being a little older.

    It’s great fun experimenting on kids though. Still trying to figure out how to draw a spot on my 17mo’s forehead to see if she can spot it in the mirror (thereby demonstrating she recognises herself in the mirror). ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Derek: I love your twist on the story – with the train under the bed and in the toybox! Perfect. Obviously your daughter has inherited your intelligence ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Thought I’d report back. My daughter will be 4 next week and I tried her with a theory of mind test again and she passed without hesitation. I tried a story about big and little brothers and their toys. The big brother, just before going to lunch, puts his train under his bed and tells his brother not to play with it. The little brother ignores this instruction and puts the train in the toybox after his big brother has left, and then goes to lunch himself. When the big brother comes back… where will he look for his train? She immediately said under the bed.

    Yay. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Very amusing episode, Michael. I love your mad props! ;o) I’m going to try it on my three and a half year old daughter tonight.

    Ree, if you’re particularly interested in mirror neurons, you might like to check out http://www.brainsciencepodcast.com. Dr Ginger Campbell has been running it for a while and has a particular interest in mirror neurons, so there are a number of episode that might be of interest to you. It’s a bit heavier going than the Psych Files and focussed more on neuroscience but it’s very accessible.

  7. Ree: Glad you liked the episode. I’ve been meaning to really get into mirror neurons and talk about this on the podcast but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ll definitely start doing some more reading on this and see if I can put together an episode.

  8. Hi Michael,
    My son has Aspergers, and I find the whole theory of mind is fascinating. To test whether he had theory of mind his psychologist took him out of the room with a chocolate box. When bringing him back in he was certain we knew that there was a small toy in the box rather than the chocolates.
    I have been reading about mirror neurons and to whether this has something to do with theory of mind ie. that these mirror neurons don’t tend to work the same as in others who understand theory of mind. Any ideas/thoughts???
    I have two dogs and am very keen to see if they are smart enough to know what I’m thinking, though one is blind so will be difficult to test.
    Thanks for the episode it was great to show my older son so he could understand ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. A fox! I think you’re right about that. Don’t know why I didn’t see that. I knew the doll wasn’t quite a horse, but…oh well. Thanks and glad you enjoyed the episode Marky.

  10. ….thats clearly a fox.. ๐Ÿ˜› haha, great video. I First heard of this concept in relation to studies of autistic children. Interesting to know it’s application to animals, i don’t think i’ve ever really thought about it.

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