Tuesday, 12 November 2013

How Do Dogs Learn Words? Just Like Kids (Op-Ed)

Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, Duke University | November 08, 2013 10:33pm ET

Brian Hare is an Associate Professor and Vanessa Woods is a Research Scientist in Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University. They founded Dognition, a web based service that helps find the genius in your dog. This post was adapted from their New York Times Bestseller "The Genius of Dogs" (Dutton Adult, 2013). Hare and Woodscontributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

A dog learning a thousand words is nothing to sniff at. But what is truly remarkable about Chaser, the border collie who has taken the world by storm, is how she learns words.

Chaser makes inferences in a similar way to human children. When Chaser played the game that tested the same ability in the citizen science project Dognition, not surprisingly, she was off the charts.

Besides dogs, dolphins, apes and parrots can also learn an impressive number of words. What is special about children is that if you show a child a red block and a green block, then ask for "the chromium block, not the red block," most children will give you the green block, despite not knowing that the word 'chromium' can refer to a shade of green. The child inferred the name of the object.

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