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Word learning dogs provide an animal model for studying exceptional performance

Fugazza, C., Dror, S., Sommese, A. et al. Word learning dogs (Canis familiaris) provide an animal model for studying exceptional performance. Sci Rep 11, 14070 (2021).

“Exceptional performance is present in various human activities but its origins are debated and challenging to study. We report evidence of exceptional performance and qualitative variation in learning object-names in dogs. 34 naïve family dogs and 6 knowledgeable individuals that knew multiple toy names, found in 2 years of search around the Globe, were exposed to 3 months of training to learn two novel toy-names and were tested in two-way choice tests. Only 1 naïve and all 6 knowledgeable dogs passed the tests. Additionally, only these dogs learned at least 10 new toy names over the 3 months, showing qualitative variation in this capacity. Although previous object-name knowledge could provide an explanation for the superior performance of the knowledgeable dogs, their rarity and the absence of previous training of this skill point to exceptional giftedness in these individuals, providing the basis to establish dogs as a model-species for studying talent…”

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