It is quite impressive that, during a limited amount of time, Ayla yawned when you yawned. Humans laugh when we see someone laughing, and we cry when we see someone in distress. Our ability to «catch» the emotions of others is called emotional contagion. A common form of emotional contagion is yawning. If you see, hear or even think about someone yawning, you will probably feel an irresistible urge to yawn. Contagious yawning is related to empathy scores in adults.
If Ayla could take a human empathy test, she would probably score quite high! So far, only a few species besides humans have been shown to contagiously yawn. Although dogs may yawn when they are stressed, they also yawn socially. Contagious yawning has been seen in dogs, but not all dogs yawn. It looks like Ayla is one of the empathetic ones.
Eye Contact Game
You know Ayla loves you; you can see it in her eyes. Judging from the way Ayla held your eye contact in this game, you may occasionally find her staring at you meaningfully. You might wonder if Ayla is trying to tell you something, like she is hungry, needs to go to the bathroom or has an opinion on what to do over the weekend.
Research with dogs has shown that owners whose dogs stared at them for longer periods of time experienced significant increases in the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin, also known as the «hug hormone,» is related to feelings of bonding, pleasure and affection.
Although the pointing game may have seemed simple, the skills it required are quite specialized. Dogs are one of the only animals to rely on human gestures – but even among dogs there is variation. Compared to other dogs, on this scale Ayla was more like a chimpanzee. Although chimpanzees are extremely intelligent in other areas, when they play a similar game they do not use a human point to find the food. Instead, they tend to use more self-reliant strategies. This does not mean that Ayla is not communicative. She may be more responsive to other signals, such as your voice. Or, because she didn’t need your help to find the treats, Ayla decided to solve this problem on her own. Ayla might depend on you more in situations where the solution is not as obvious.
In the hand pointing game, Ayla was very self-reliant, rarely choosing the treat you pointed at. In the foot pointing game, Ayla seemed to pay a little more attention, switching back and forth between choosing the treat you pointed at, and making her own decision.
Ayla probably does not see you point with your foot very often, so this game was a way of seeing how flexibly Ayla can read new gestures. Giving animals a new version of a problem they have seen before is a common tactic used to reveal what strategy they are using to solve a problem.
Although Ayla did not follow you every time, she may have sensed your communicative intent, and would probably not need much practice to start using a range of new gestures.
Memory versus Pointing
Ayla was clearly trying hard to figure this one out. When she saw you hide the treat under one cup but point to the other cup, she wanted to use the information you were giving her, but she also knew what she saw. Rather than choose one strategy, she switched back and forth between the two, which shows impressive flexibility.
Memory versus Smell
Since dogs have such a keen sense of smell, you may have been surprised that after you switched the cups, Ayla used her memory over her sense of smell. She went to where she remembered seeing the treat hidden, rather than sniffing out where the treat was.
Because a dog’s nose can sniff everything from narcotics to cancer, whenever we run a study where we hide a treat under one of two cups, the first question people always ask is, «Can’t my dog just smell the food under the cup?» It was certainly our first question, but extensive research by half a dozen independent research groups has concluded that dogs do not rely on their sense of smell to find the food in these games.
If dogs were using smell, they would go directly to the cup with the hidden food. In fact, these studies found that dogs only choose the correct cup around half the time – which means they are guessing. Dogs do have an excellent sense of smell and can probably detect food if allowed to sniff both cups before choosing. But when you study their first choice, they cannot localize the food to a specific cup from a distance of six feet away.
Delayed Cup Game
Working memory is critical for animals that are endurance hunters such as wolves or feral dogs. Endurance hunters chase after prey for long periods of time, slowly wearing them out. During long chases the prey may not always be in direct sight, so the hunter has to remember where its prey was last seen.
Just like her ancestors, Ayla had to remember the location of the target for different amounts of time. Although the modern world has many distractions, it looks like Ayla still did pretty well, using her working memory to find the treat most of the time. This is no easy feat, as even you may have forgotten where the treat was during the longer delays.
By no means did Ayla do badly on this game; in fact, she developed quite a clever strategy. She developed a right or left side bias, meaning when she didn’t know which side was correct, she went to one side every time. This is pretty clever, because 50% of the time she was correct.
Tema analyse / logikk
Inferential Reasoning Game
This was probably the most difficult game, and Ayla’s performance was excellent. In this game, we presented Ayla with a problem and you provided some, but not all, of the information needed to solve it. When you showed Ayla the empty cup, you were providing indirect information on where the treat was – she had to make an inference that because that cup was empty, the treat must be in the other cup.
Just because Ayla did not choose the cup with the reward, it doesn’t mean that she failed. In fact, this shows a strongly cooperative nature. By lifting up the empty cup, you were actually drawing attention to it, and Ayla preferred to choose this cup over the other. Ayla views you as a cooperative partner and assumed that you were trying to help her by showing her the correct cup.
Physical Reasoning Game
In this game, Ayla demonstrated an excellent understanding of a fundamental property of the physical world – that one solid object cannot pass through another solid object.
Ayla had to infer that a piece of paper on an angle meant that a treat was hidden behind it. This talent would come in handy in the wild, since animals often have to keep track of objects that become hidden. To find these objects, animals have to maintain a representation of the object and predict where it might appear.
Humans intuitively understand basic physical phenomena like the solidity principle – it looks like Ayla does too.