Canine cognition unleashed: Study reveals dogs’ remarkable understanding of words

Apr 01, 2024
A new study has shed light on the secret language skills of dogs. Source: Getty Images.

In a groundbreaking exploration of the inner workings of our furry companions’ minds, a recent study has unveiled that dogs possess a profound grasp of language, akin to humans.

Conducted by researchers at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest and published in Current Biology, the study delves into how dogs interpret words, shedding light on the intricate complexities of their cognitive abilities.

Unveiling a facet of canine intelligence that may not surprise devoted dog owners, the study reveals that dogs can comprehend words in a manner that prompts action, demonstrating an understanding beyond mere obedience commands like “sit” or “fetch”.

Analysing brain activity in 18 dogs, researchers discovered compelling evidence that our four-legged friends can summon memories of objects when they hear corresponding words.

Marianna Boros, co-author of the study, remarked on the significance of their findings, stating, “There has been a long debate on a non-human animal’s ability to understand words referentially.”

“While there have been behavioral reports, these were always exceptional cases. Our study is the first where we claim that this is a species-wide capacity,” she added.

During the study, dog owners uttered words representing objects familiar to their pets. In some instances, the presented object matched the word, while in others, it did not.

The results were striking: the patterns observed in the dogs’ brains when words matched objects differed significantly from those when they didn’t, mirroring processes observed in humans.

According to Boros, “Dogs can understand that words stand for things … So they activate mental representations and they link the meaning of the word to a mental representation and not just the context.”

The implications of this research extend beyond the realm of our beloved canines. The study paves the way for a deeper understanding of the cognitive capacities of other animals and raises questions about the nature of language comprehension across species.

As researchers explore whether this ability to grasp referential language is unique to dogs or shared among other mammals, the study marks a significant milestone in unraveling the mysteries of interspecies communication and cognition.

-with Reuters.

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