Category Archives: Citizen Science

Why you make such a great scientist

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When Dognition first launched, many people wondered if people at home could collect data of the same quality as researchers in a laboratory. Three years later, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’

Dognition is the biggest citizen science project on dog cognition in the world. Over 47,000 people have taken part in Dognition, and on five of the seven tests, citizen science data replicated the results of researchers at Duke University and elsewhere.

“They’re just games,” says Dr. Brian Hare, founder of Dognition. “The owners love playing them and the dogs love playing them.”

For example, in one of the game-like tests, dogs were found to rely more on their memory than their sense of smell to find a hidden treat. The dogs watched as their owner hid food under one of two cups. Then when the dog was not looking, the owner switched the food to the other cup. (Watch the YouTube video of the experiment at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toJZMfnc8ig)

If dogs could smell the food, they should have been able to choose the correct cup, but owners found that most dogs went to where they last saw the food.

“The data these dog owners are producing is quality data,” says Dr. Evan MacLean, an Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Arizona who is also on the scientific advisory board of Dognition. “It matches the results we see coming out of the top research groups all over the world.”

According to MacLean, the memory-over-smell result has been replicated in seven different research groups and more than a dozen different studies. “Most people think dogs use their sense of smell for everything,” MacLean said. “But actually dogs use a whole range of senses when solving problems.”

Analysis of the unusually large dataset created by Dognition has also found that all dogs have a unique set of cognitive skills that they use to navigate the world around them. Some dogs were found to be good communicators, some had better memories and others were better at taking their owner’s perspective.

“Most people think of intelligence as glass that is more or less full,” Hare said. “But intelligence is more like ice cream. Everybody has different flavors. Being good at one thing doesn’t mean you will be good at everything else.”

Hare said these kinds of findings are only possible with the big data sets that citizen scientists are able to generate.

“‘So much is possible when you have this much data,” Hare said. “I’m looking forward to dog owners answering all the big questions that have puzzled scientists for decades.”

Posted in Citizen Science, The Dognition Experience.

Your Dog and You: How to Play the Games Without a Partner

Copper is ready to play the Dognition games!

Cooper is ready to play the Dognition games!

Can I do this by myself? Do I have to have a partner to play the games?

A common question we get here at Dognition is about the need for a non-canine partner in playing the games. While having a partner makes gameplay easier logistically, most people have had great success–and a lot of fun–playing the games with just their canine. We’ve designed the games so that the instructions are easy to follow. The following are options for how to play the games with just your dog. When people play the games the following ways, the data is great and the profile report is still spot on. Continue reading

Posted in Citizen Science, The Dognition Experience. Tagged with , .

New Research: Why Yawning Means I Love You

Screen shot 2013-08-12 at 10.05.13 AM“What does my dog think about me?” is a question that many dog owners — including us — have wanted to know. The Dognition games use a large base of published academic research to give users enriching details on many aspects of their dog’s mind. A brand new study out of the University of Tokyo in Japan has added even more support to the sizeable evidence behind one of the most talked about Dognition games, the Yawn Game.

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Posted in Citizen Science, Dog Love, The Science Behind the Story. Tagged with , , , .

How mixed breed dogs think differently than purebreds

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Sometimes I feel like my best friend just doesn’t understand me. I call him and he doesn’t respond. I point and he looks at my fingertip instead of whatever I’m pointing at. I’m talking about my dog Teddy, of course.

I wouldn’t call him overtly independent. In fact, he’s off-the-charts empathetic, and he does look to me for direction from time to time. But it seems like he’d prefer to make his own decisions than use my help. I wondered if his lack of interest in my pointing had anything to do with his previous homelife. We adopted him from a shelter, and we have no idea what sort of human communication he’d received before us. As it turns out, the fact that Teddy is more likely to use his own memory over my pointing may have something to do with his breeding, or rather, his lack thereof. Continue reading

Posted in Behind-the-Scenes, Citizen Science, The Dognition Experience. Tagged with , , .

Dog burglars: Dogs steal more in the dark

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Dr. Juliane Kaminski, one of our Scientific Advisory Board members, has made a cool finding: dogs are more likely to sneak food from people when the lights are out.

Kaminski, who is a lecturer and research in the Psychology department of the University of Portsmouth, found that dogs were four times more likely to steal food after being told not to if the room was dark.

Kaminski also showed that dogs’ behavior depended on what part of the room was dark. Continue reading

Posted in Citizen Science. Tagged with , , .
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