Dog–human social relationship: representation of human face familiarity and emotions in the dog brain

Abstract

This study investigated the behavioral and neural indices of detecting facial familiarity and facial emotions in human faces by dogs. Awake canine fMRI was used to evaluate dogs’ neural response to pictures and videos of familiar and unfamiliar human faces, which contained positive, neutral, and negative emotional expressions. The dog–human relationship was behaviorally characterized out-of-scanner using an unsolvable task. The caudate, hippocampus, and amygdala, mainly implicated in reward, familiarity and emotion processing, respectively, were activated in dogs when viewing familiar and emotionally salient human faces. Further, the magnitude of activation in these regions correlated with the duration for which dogs showed human-oriented behavior towards a familiar (as opposed to unfamiliar) person in the unsolvable task. These findings provide a bio-behavioral basis for the underlying markers and functions of human–dog interaction as they relate to familiarity and emotion in human faces.

Understanding fish cognition: a review and appraisal of current practices

Abstract

With over 30,000 recognized species, fishes exhibit an extraordinary variety of morphological, behavioural, and life-history traits. The field of fish cognition has grown markedly with numerous studies on fish spatial navigation, numeracy, learning, decision-making, and even theory of mind. However, most cognitive research on fishes takes place in a highly controlled laboratory environment and it can therefore be difficult to determine whether findings generalize to the ecology of wild fishes. Here, we summarize four prominent research areas in fish cognition, highlighting some of the recent advances and key findings. Next, we survey the literature, targeting these four areas, and quantify the nearly ubiquitous use of captive-bred individuals and a heavy reliance on lab-based research. We then discuss common practices that occur prior to experimentation and within experiments that could hinder our ability to make more general conclusions about fish cognition, and suggest possible solutions. By complementing ecologically relevant laboratory-based studies with in situ cognitive tests, we will gain further inroads toward unraveling how fishes learn and make decisions about food, mates, and territories.

Macaque species with varying social tolerance show no differences in understanding what other agents perceive

Abstract

A growing body of work demonstrates that a species’ socioecology can impact its cognitive abilities. Indeed, even closely related species with different socioecological pressures often show different patterns of cognitive performance on the same task. Here, we explore whether major differences in social tolerance in two closely related macaque species can impact a core sociocognitive ability, the capacity to recognize what others see. Specifically, we compared the performance of Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus, n = 80) and rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta, n = 62) on a standard test of visual perspective understanding. In contrast to the difference in performance, one might expect from these species’ divergent socioecologies that our results show similar performance across Barbary and rhesus macaques, with both species forming expectations about how another agent will act based on that agent’s visual perspective. These results suggest that differences in socioecology may not play as big of a role in the evolution of some theory of mind capacities as they do in other decision-making or foraging contexts.

Exclusion in the field: wild brown skuas find hidden food in the absence of visual information

Abstract

Inferential reasoning by exclusion allows responding adaptively to various environmental stimuli when confronted with inconsistent or partial information. In the experimental context, this mechanism involves selecting correctly between an empty option and a potentially rewarded one. Recently, the increasing reports of this capacity in phylogenetically distant species have led to the assumption that reasoning by exclusion is the result of convergent evolution. Within one largely unstudied avian order, i.e. the Charadriiformes, brown skuas (Catharacta antarctica ssp lonnbergi) are highly flexible and opportunistic predators. Behavioural flexibility, along with specific aspects of skuas’ feeding ecology, may act as influencing factors in their ability to show exclusion performance. Our study aims to test whether skuas are able to choose by exclusion in a visual two-way object-choice task. Twenty-six wild birds were presented with two opaque cups, one covering a food reward. Three conditions were used: ‘full information’ (showing the content of both cups), ‘exclusion’ (showing the content of the empty cup), and ‘control’ (not showing any content). Skuas preferentially selected the rewarded cup in the full information and exclusion condition. The use of olfactory cues was excluded by results in the control condition. Our study opens new field investigations for testing further the cognition of this predatory seabird.

The effects of distance on pointing comprehension in shelter dogs

Abstract

The Object Choice Task is a methodology that has been increasingly popular for several decades and many strong claims have been made regarding the differential results between species. However, many studies use differing methodologies and individuals with systematically different backgrounds, which makes any comparisons suspect. One of the methodological differences that has been shown to result in differing responses is distance, both between the objects, and between the object and the gesture. Here, we systematically test these differences with a sample of shelter dogs and note the potential mechanisms underlying the results. Dogs were more successful if the objects were further apart (Distal Object) or the point was very close to the object (Proximal Cue). Success in both of these conditions can be most parsimoniously explained by mechanistic strategies, i.e. strategies that do not rely on mental representation or communicative mechanisms. We also note the results of some pilot data suggesting a non-communicative mechanism (body alignment through touch) by which shelter dogs and other animals may successfully respond when the objects and gestures are distant. We argue that the only point type that likely relies on communicative mechanisms is when the objects are close together, but the point is distant the condition in which dogs are least successful. Future research should take into consideration that individual dogs may use different strategies, or may switch between strategies, and note that all point-following is not necessarily indicative of communicative comprehension.

Dimensional bias and adaptive adjustments in inhibitory control of monkeys

Abstract

Humans and macaque monkeys, performing a Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), show a significant behavioral bias to a particular sensory dimension (e.g. color or shape); however, lesions in prefrontal cortical regions do not abolish the dimensional biases in monkeys and, therefore, it has been proposed that these biases emerge in earlier stages of visual information processing. It remains unclear whether such dimensional biases are unique to the WCST, in which attention-shifting between dimensions are required, or affect other aspects of executive functions such as ‘response inhibition’ and ‘error-induced behavioral adjustments’. To address this question, we trained six monkeys (Macaca mulatta) to perform a stop-signal task in which they had to inhibit their response when an instruction for inhibition was given by changing the color or shape of a visual stimulus. Stop Signal Reaction Time (SSRT) is an index of inhibitory processes. In all monkeys, SSRT was significantly shorter, and the probability of a successful inhibition was significantly higher, when a change in the shape dimension acted as the stop-cue. Humans show a response slowing following a failure in response inhibition and also adapt a proactive slowing after facing demands for response inhibition. We found such adaptive behavioral adjustments, with the same pattern, in monkeys’ behavior; however, the dimensional bias did not modulate them. Our findings, showing dimensional bias in monkey, with the same pattern, in two different executive control tasks support the hypothesis that the bias to shape dimension emerges in early stages of visual information processing.

Social position indirectly influences the traits yellow-bellied marmots use to solve problems

Abstract

Animals adapt to changing environments by behaving flexibly when solving problems. Traits, such as sex and age, and specifically behavioral traits like persistence–the amount of time spent attempting to solve a problem, are positively associated with successful problem-solving. However, individuals face social pressures, such as aggression, which may directly alter an individual’s behavior or interact with sex or age, when they attempt to problem-solve. We examined the direct and indirect effects of social position and individual behavioral traits on solving a novel puzzle box in facultatively social yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventer), using both generalized linear mixed models and confirmatory path analysis. We found strong support that marmots who used a diversity of behaviors were more successful problem-solvers and weak support that those who received more aggression were less successful. Additionally, marmots who received more aggression were less behaviorally diverse, less behaviorally selective and less persistent while trying to open the puzzle box. Thus, we show that aggression indirectly decreases problem-solving success by acting on the behavioral traits that an individual uses. We conclude that specific social relationships, including the type of interaction and whether they are recipients or initiators, influences the ways in which an individual interacts with cognitive tests and should be considered in analysis of individual problem-solving.