01:51 GMT +330 March 2017

    Japanese Researchers: Dogs Have Human-Like Moral Principles

    © AFP 2017/ Sajjad HUSSAIN
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    A new study suggests that dogs appreciate kindness and fairness in humans, just as humans do toward each other.

    It has previously been found that infants recognize "unfair" behavior and react negatively to people who display harmful intentions toward others. Researchers at Kyoto University's department of psychology set their minds on determining whether some animal species might also show a preference for certain people based on their sense of good and evil.

    In a series of experiments, comparative psychologist James R. Anderson and his colleagues worked out that dogs and capuchin monkeys exhibit an almost human-like sense of morality.

    In one setting a dog watched as its owner tried and failed to open a container before turning to two recruited actors and asking for help. In the experiment, one of the two ‘bystanders' showed no reaction, while the other either helped or refused to do so. Following the scene, the bystander offered the dog food.

    The researchers found that dogs were less inclined to accept treats from people they perceived as acting selfishly or rudely. Anderson believes this is proof that man's best friend is capable of making social judgements similar to those of babies, even if it is not necessarily a conscious reaction.

    In a piece called "Third-party social evaluations of humans by monkeys and dogs," published in the journal Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews, the researcher explained, "The studies reviewed here have shown that, like young human children, monkeys and pet dogs are not merely passive observers of other individuals' interactions."

    "Instead, in some circumstances at least, they pay attention to the outcome of the interaction, evaluate how the actors behave, and make use of that information in reaching a decision about which individuals to interact with or to avoid." 

    Our own sense of right and wrong may also have its roots in these sorts of primitive evaluations of others.

    "I think that in humans there may be this basic sensitivity towards antisocial behavior in others." Anderson told the New Scientist. "Then through growing up, inculturation and teaching, it develops into a full-blown sense of morality."


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    • Dar...
      Dogs are better people than humans are.
    • avatar
      "Researchers at Kyoto University's department of psychology set their minds on determining whether some animal species might also show a preference for certain people based on their sense of good and evil."

      You can no more teach a dog to not steal another dog's bone, than you can teach a monkey not to steal another monkeys banana, and the latter experiment has been going on since 1925. Why? because they have no conscience. Sure, you can train a dog to not bite its master, but that is learned behavior. Like Darwin, the Japanese are in a quandry what to do with their time.
    • avatar
      marcanhaltin reply toDar...(Show commentHide comment)
      Dar..., ...sometimes, but not when it comes to human behavior.
    • choticastile
      Graffiti on a car bumper I have never forgotten reads as follows:-
      "God please help me to be as good as my dog thinks I am!"

      Human reactions-- such as like, dislike, distrust, etc, we call intuition and in dogs we call it instinct-- but the instincts of animals I think are far sharper and correct, than perhaps our intuition is? I think too that dogs and even cats, are very dependent on our love and affection and that sometimes when we arrive home, we have no idea how much they missed our company during the day and even if we are tired, we must not forget to respond to their greetings as enthusiastically as theirs are toward us ... Truly, what would life be without the spontaneous and completely unconditional love of a dog?
    • avatar
      Or you could say that humans have dog-like moral principles
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