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Author Topic: Humans Teach Dogs Morality?  (Read 1499 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: August 22, 2008, 08:09:14 AM »

If dogs are learning concepts of morality from us humans, what a marvelous example this sets for us in our role as Stewards of Creation!

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Living with humans has taught dogs morals, say scientists

Dogs are becoming more intelligent and are even learning morals from human contact, scientists claim.

They say the fact that dogs' play rarely escalates into a fight shows the animals abide by social rules.

During one study, dogs which held up a paw were rewarded with a food treat.

When a lone dog was asked to raise its paw but received no treat, the researchers found it begged for up to 30 minutes.

But when they tested two dogs together but rewarded only one, the dog which missed out soon stopped playing the game.

Dr Friederike Range, of the University of Vienna, who led the study, said: 'Dogs show a strong aversion to inequity. I would prefer not to call it a sense of fairness, but others might.'

The first Canine Science Forum in Budapest was attended by more than 200 experts to discuss what is going on inside the mind of a dog.

Human's inclination to invest dogs with human-like states of mind isn't as unscientific as it might appear as they really do have some remarkable mental skills that allow them to thrive in their strange habitat - our world.

Domestic dogs evolved from grey wolves as recently as 10,000 years ago since when their brains have shrunk so a wolf-sized dog has a brain around 10 per cent smaller than its wild ancestor.

Dr Peter Pongracz from Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, and colleagues have produced evidence dog barks contain information that people can understand.

They found even people who have never owned a dog can recognise the emotional 'meaning' of barks produced in various situations, such as when playing, left alone and confronted by a stranger.

His team has now developed a computer program that can aggregate hundreds of barks recorded in various settings and boil them down to their basic acoustic ingredients.

They found each of the different types of bark has distinct patterns of frequency, tonality and pulsing, and that an artificial neural network can use these features to correctly identify a bark it has never encountered before.

This is further evidence that barking conveys information about a dog's mental state, reports New Scientist magazine.

They also discovered people can correctly identify aggregated barks as conveying happiness, loneliness or aggression.

'Even children from the age of six who have never had a dog recognise these patterns,' says Dr Pongracz.

Dogs are not just able to 'speak' to us - they can also understand some aspects of human communication.

At the forum in Budapest, Dr Akiko Takaoka from Kyoto University in Japan described as-yet unpublished work that examined what is going on inside a dog's mind when it hears a stranger's voice.

She played dogs a series of recordings of unfamiliar voices - both male and female - with each voice followed by a photo of a human face on a screen.

If the gender of the face did not match that of the voice, the dogs stared longer, a sign that their expectations had been violated.

Dr Takaoka said: 'This suggests dogs generate an internal visual representation of a male or female correlated with the voice.'  She suggests that this ability to infer information about a person from their voice alone might help dogs communicate with people.

It is generally accepted that a few other animals, including great apes, are capable of this mind reading to some extent, but it is nevertheless a quality reserved for only the most intelligent of species.

But Dr Alexandra Horowitz from Barnard College in New York prefers the term "theory of behaviour" to describe dogs' apparent insight.

She said: 'I think there is a massive territory between a theory of mind and a theory of behaviour.'

Her own recent study illustrates the point - when dogs play together, they use appropriate signals for grabbing attention or signalling the desire to play depending on their playmate's apparent level of attention, such as whether it is facing them or side-on.

That could be interpreted as mind reading, she admits, but a simpler explanation is that dogs are reading body language and reacting in stereotyped ways.


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« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2008, 09:17:10 AM »

Interesting. Pavlov was able to take information gained from experiments on dogs and apply it to human behaviour, so it stands to reason that the exchange could go the other way as well.
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« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2008, 09:51:47 AM »

Interesting indeed.  Of course, the study had to be made on dogs.  Cats would never have consented to such demeaning experimentation.  Kneel, human, and profess your unworthiness.   laugh
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« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2008, 10:15:03 AM »

Quote
If dogs are learning concepts of morality from us humans, what a marvelous example this sets for us in our role as Stewards of Creation!

Did this article mean religious morality, because if so, how can animals understand human concepts of this morality when they don't know about God and don't know guilt from the direction of having offended Him? Higher animals only know a level of morality that is in tune with supporting and protecting their community, whether it's a pack of wolves or a pack of humans. LOL, animals don't need to learn anything from us. Why, when the Asian tsunami was about to hit, many animals sought higher ground, while the humans ignorantly stayed below... Roll Eyes

This article is misleading, because when most people read the word 'morals', they tend to think of religious morality.

Quote
During one study, dogs which held up a paw were rewarded with a food treat.

When a lone dog was asked to raise its paw but received no treat, the researchers found it begged for up to 30 minutes.

But when they tested two dogs together but rewarded only one, the dog which missed out soon stopped playing the game.

This only shows that dogs already know 'morals'--some difference between right and wrong, not that they're "learning morals", and certainly not "learning morals from humans". One can understand that dogs and their ancestors know a sense of right and wrong by watching packs of wolves. Their behaviors of morality are certainly similar to some of ours, but not others. For example, many humans view treating people as "scapegoats" as unrighteous, while the wolf practice of having one member of the pack act as "scapegoat" for all the troubles of the pack is perfectly alright.

Interesting. Pavlov was able to take information gained from experiments on dogs and apply it to human behaviour, so it stands to reason that the exchange could go the other way as well.

I disbelieve that. What need do dogs have for human ideas of behavior? Our ideas of what is wrong and right change with the times. Dogs already know enough about what constitutes proper behavior among themselves in order to survive and thrive, without acting like they're the worst thing God could have created.
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« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2008, 11:50:10 AM »

Did this article mean religious morality,
It's a scientific study. What concern does science have with religion?

Quote
This article is misleading, because when most people read the word 'morals', they tend to think of religious morality.
I don't. In fact, I have three ethical principles for my classes: that the students communicate with each other, sharing ideas and information; that they treat each other with respect; and that they employ critical thinking skills to the text and other materials we employ. None of these are religious, but they are most certainly rooted in my morality.

Quote
I disbelieve that. What need do dogs have for human ideas of behavior? Our ideas of what is wrong and right change with the times. Dogs already know enough about what constitutes proper behavior among themselves in order to survive and thrive, without acting like they're the worst thing God could have created.
You imply that animals' morality does not change over time. In fact, survival itself dictates what behaviours are most moral for a group of animals; those behaviours which are most likely to ensure survival are favoured over those which are not as effective in that regard.
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« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2008, 05:47:07 AM »

It's a scientific study. What concern does science have with religion?

Absolutely nothing. It just felt like it had a 'religious morality' tone to it...

I don't. In fact, I have three ethical principles for my classes: that the students communicate with each other, sharing ideas and information; that they treat each other with respect; and that they employ critical thinking skills to the text and other materials we employ. None of these are religious, but they are most certainly rooted in my morality.

I know that the phrase "Treat others as you would treat yourself" is not dependent on any religion...

You imply that animals' morality does not change over time. In fact, survival itself dictates what behaviours are most moral for a group of animals; those behaviours which are most likely to ensure survival are favoured over those which are not as effective in that regard.

I know and believe that, but dogs' moral changes are linked to survival, while ours aren't necessarily linked. Many of the morals of our society are linked to peoples' opinions of what is important or not-so-important. The changes in modesty and sexual behavior could be examples.
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« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2008, 05:56:44 AM »

Interesting indeed.  Of course, the study had to be made on dogs.  Cats would never have consented to such demeaning experimentation.  Kneel, human, and profess your unworthiness.   laugh

True, but my cat seems to know what it means when I say her name and I pick up a plastic bag. She hates the rustling sound. Wink
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« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2008, 08:11:25 AM »

My cats think that means dinnertime.   laugh
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« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2008, 12:34:17 PM »

I know and believe that, but dogs' moral changes are linked to survival, while ours aren't necessarily linked. Many of the morals of our society are linked to peoples' opinions of what is important or not-so-important. The changes in modesty and sexual behavior could be examples.

Morality has nothing to do with religion, though religion is often developed based on pre-existing moral norms. Morality is an evolutionary and social trait that develops because of the advantage it gives for the survival of the group. Even sexual morality can be viewed in this manner, it's certainly not a genetic trait, we are a sexually dimorphic species and, thus, obviously naturally polygamous and promiscuous. However, our observation of our closest relatives, the other great apes, teaches us that these traits are the source of substantial intra-societal violence. The minimizing of intra-societal violence gives a particular group a substantial survival advantage over competing groups. Because of various conventions over they years, the rate of intra-societal violence amongst humans is only a few percent of what is seen amongst the other great apes. Of course, I have also seen some estimates that rates of intra-societal violence today are only a fraction of what they were in medieval Europe...suggesting an objective standard by which to claim that our modern moral system is superior to their and improving.
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« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2008, 12:41:30 PM »

I know and believe that, but dogs' moral changes are linked to survival, while ours aren't necessarily linked. Many of the morals of our society are linked to peoples' opinions of what is important or not-so-important. The changes in modesty and sexual behavior could be examples.
So you are suggesting that behaviours related to reproduction are not related to the survival of a species?
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« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2008, 03:10:16 PM »

Humans taught dogs morality? When I compare most people i know to most dogs I know, I think it is the other way around.
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« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2008, 03:38:44 PM »

Dogs (e.g. Pit Bulls) can learn "street mentality" from humans.  While a wild wolf kills prey to survive, a domesticated Pit Bull needs to be trained to kill just to help its owner(s) make money.  Unfortunately, the instinct to kill doesn't go away for a Pit Bull and that animal will attack again given the opportunity.  Many of the dogs removed from Michael Vick's residence had to be put down because they were too violent to be around other people.

There are numerous examples of Pit Bulls attacking small children even though the owners would say (after the fact) that the dog would never do such a thing.  Note, any dog can attack; I'm not singling out pit bulls even though most incidents of dog/child attacks are by pit bulls.

Honestly, I don't see how a human could learn anything from a dog.  Humans do not live in packs.  Humans do not depend on each other for survival (unless one is under 12).  A 4 lb Yorkie and a 100 lb Rottweiler can live in peace because size is not a factor in establishing presence in a pack.  Those dogs on "Greatest American Dog" probably have some human DNA floating around although nowhere near Brian on Family Guy.

I wonder why cats hesitate to fight each other....   angel  I'll propose "Greatest American Cat" to the producers of "Greatest American Dog" and see if that idea will fly.   Wink Cheesy laugh
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« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2008, 09:06:07 PM »

So you are suggesting that behaviours related to reproduction are not related to the survival of a species?

Depends on the species. For humans, the practice of pre-marital sex, although beneficial for spreading genes, is not conducive nor very beneficial to survival in a human social environment, since we're highly social animals. Although some countries, like Sweden (I think?), have made compromises for pre-marital sex and its end-products, the usual response from most societies is that the reproductive behavior of pre-marital sex is not allowed to be related to survival, therefore, it is not really related to our survival as a species. Did that make sense? Undecided
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« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2008, 05:04:12 PM »

Depends on the species. For humans, the practice of pre-marital sex, although beneficial for spreading genes, is not conducive nor very beneficial to survival in a human social environment, since we're highly social animals.
Yes; therefore, the practice of pre-marital sex can lead to rivalries and social exclusion (e.g. Friends), both of which adversely affect our species' survival.

That said, you are correct that we are not entirely governed by evolution anymore. Since we began to manipulate our environment, instead of the other way around, it's difficult to say exactly how much of our lives are governed by genetics and how much is governed by society. Classic sociopychological question of nature v. nurture.
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