parent mimicking is a social learning from observation, in which children imitate obviously senseless actions which strongly but not is characterised by affiliation and conformity, by causality. So far, this behavior was regarded as purely human. Now, a veterinary study in Vienna suggests that dogs also exhibit this behavior.

special form of learning from observation

a study of Vetmeduni Vienna under the supervision of Ludwig Huber, head of the Department of comparative cognition at the Messerli Vetmeduni Vienna Research Institute tested whether dogs on this learn special kind.

dogs such as the Labrador learn socially by their people and carry out their actions with great sensitivity. Therefore, an Institute of veterinary medicine of the University of Vienna now examined whether dogs show a behavior that was known only among people: the above imitation. (Image: cristina_conti/

thesis: dogs copy actions

Huber says: “because this peculiar form of imitation in humans is strongly motivated by social factors such as affiliation or conformity, we set up the hypothesis, that domesticated and cultivated” Dogs more often than monkey copy such acts, especially when this is shown by their caregivers.”

why dogs?

dogs were the first choice for the study because they easily learn and understand human behavior, living in the environment created by human beings. How children learn dog in a social process.

thesis is confirmed in fact

the dogs showed the behavior that is called excess imitation in humans. Half of the dogs repeated a causally irrelevant action that showed them its human caregiver.

similar in children

includes Huber: “just like in children seems to be learning from dogs and copying their caregivers a profound social process. “Copying obviously causally irrelevant actions can no longer be regarded as a solely human action but one that man shares with his four-legged companions.”

what is special about the excessive imitation?

social learning was established in the evolution in many animal species and is almost always effective. Animals know as causalities and learn vital behavior chains: catch prey, escape, hiding etc. Excessive imitation is, however, hardly efficient, because the imitated has no practical consequences, for example, when a child with a feather on a vascular knocking, then unscrewing the lid to get a figure out of the vessel. The spring is not necessary for this procedure.

what is the purpose of above imitation?

the phenomenon of excessive imitation is not fully understood. An approach assumes that children look at acts virtually redundant as causal, because they see them with their parents.

symbolic act

another approach comes from the symbol research and already looks the cultural development of symbolic actions. Therefore isn’t it the child that the copied action when the object is opposite leads to success, but communicates to his affiliation with the caregiver and to the social group.

open doors for future research?

the study could be the occasion, whether and how dogs that like no other animal on the culture of the people are characterized, understand also symbolic definitions of affiliation, or, according to the first interpretation, already as causal action. because it performs its human caregiver. (Dr. UTZ Anhalt)

source: Mag.rer.nat. Georg MairWissenschaftskommunikation and public relations