A team of researchers from Hungary announced they have discovered that dogs have a similar memory to humans. While humans have episodic memories, our canine companions also have episodic-like memories. The team of researchers put a group of pet dogs through a training process that first had them memorize an action and then try to trick the canines into thinking they would not need it. The study was published in the journal Current Biology.
Episodic memory is the memory of events that can be clearly stated. This type of memory is a collection of past personal experiences that happened in a particular time or place and the associated emotions and people. While easily done with humans, dogs can not explicitly state their memories.
The study involved 17 pet dogs that were put through a multistep training process that included having the dogs memorize an action. In the same training, the dogs were then “tricked” into thinking they didn’t need to perform the action, according to The Washington Post. The method of training was called the “do as I do” method, meaning their owners demonstrated an action and then telling their pets to perform the action.
After completing the action, their dogs were given a treat and once the dogs mastered the action, the study had the owner change something. For instance, instead of performing the first original action, the owners asked the dogs to do another action instead. Once the dogs mastered this, the authors of the study said the canines lost the expectation of being told to imitate, or “Do it!”
An ethologist at the University of Eotvos Lorand in Budapest, Claudia Fugazza, who was the lead author of the study, said that while the study could not theorize what the dogs were thinking, they had to find evidence of behavior to indicate what the dogs expect or not. The researchers then had the owners of the dogs switch the activity yet again by then adding the phrase of “do it” after one minute the dog performed the action.
This was the crux of the research was did the dogs remember their owners’ actions and could they access it? According to The Washington Post, 60 percent of the dogs did the action, “even though they probably didn’t expect to be asked to.” After an hour wait, 35 percent of the dogs imitated the action.
Some, though, are expressing their doubts at the study’s research. Arizona State University Behavioral Scientist, Clive Wynne, who directs the Canine Science Collaboratory, said that he could think of many ways to explain the findings. The researchers stated that the data showed that non-humans could remember complex events without a waiting period and also provided the foundation for more episodic memory research in other animals.
By Cheryl Werber