Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good Dog!

In this morning's NYTimes Science section there is an article about a border collie named Chaser who has been taught 1,022 nouns, names associated with different objects she has been taught to fetch. Chaser was also taught to distinguish verbs, becoming able to paw, nose or take an object requested. It took some effort to exclude the possibility of the "Clever Hans Effect" -  that subtle clues from human handlers might have influenced the dog.


  1. Yes, but does this indicate an actual linguistic ability, or is it something else?

    Language, Representational Thinking, and Object Relations in Dogs

  2. Sorry I didn't expand a bit more. No way is Chaser's behavior evidence for what we think of as grammar or language. It can learn action cues and perform them. The large number is striking, just as it is for birds and squirrels who can remember the locations of hundreds of stored food items.

  3. I'm sorry, I should have prefaced my remarks by saying how much I like your blog. I read it nearly every day, and when I happen to miss a day, I always check in on what I missed the next day or the day after.

    In my view Mind Blog probably gets things right more consistently than any other blog on the subject of cognition.

    The article I posted a link to is from "My Puppy, My Self," a blog I write for PsychologyToday.com

    I count on Mind Blog to give me food for thought and, occasionally, relevant research for what I write over there!

    So thanks! Keep up the good work!


  4. When you consider that a dog - or it's ancestors - might forage through a territory a hundred square km comprising thousands of unique locations and biologically useful features - without getting lost - the number doesn't seem too extreme. Of course, the next question is will the dog who has learned to associate thousand word and objects run out of available brain capacity and so get lost walking to the local park? :)