Monday, 25 January 2016

Humans, dogs and intelligence

In my studies into the evolution of human intelligence it is becoming increasingly clear that the main difference between us and other mammals is that we have invented a tool called language which enables parents to teach their children a significant amount of cultural information. Better knowledge means better chances of survival. However in other respects animal brains work in basically the same way and you can expect them to have similar emotions.

Two pieces of recent research have caught my eye relating to dogs. One relates to their domestication and the other to their ability to recognise human emotions

The idea that wolves found scavenging human sites, and some became non-aggressive, to the point of eventual domestication seems even more likely when it is realised that wolves seem to be developing a similar friendly relationship with geleda monkeys.

The fact that we share emotions with dogs and there can be recognised both way across species suggests a kind of symbiotic relationship. Another factor which suggests a similarity between dog and human brains is the extent that dogs can be taught to carry out a range of useful activities. Because they do not have anything like human language wolves are limited in what they can teach their young. But humans have evolved to be very good teachers of human children - and dogs respond when positively taught in the same way.


  1. Hi Chris,
    What are your thoughts on this?

    Ps I always enjoy reading your posts.


  2. Advances such as this, and the recent computer chip in the eye, are clearly interesting and I have commented on a new post "Direct computer links with the brain"

  3. Susanne Pratt, on the FutureLean Environmental Humanities course came up with this NY times article describing some of the scientific research on dog-human genes -