Study: Imitation Important to Learning

VIENNA, July 30 (UPI) — Dogs automatically imitate the body movements of their owners, and such imitation is also a crucial part of social learning in humans, Austrian researchers say.

The phenomenon, where the sight of another’s body movements causes the observer to move in the same way, is seen in many other animals and may provide clues to how this kind of “imitative” learning evolved, the BBC reported Friday.

Researchers at the University of Vienna say the way children interact with and play with their dogs shapes the animals’ ability to imitate.

“It’s not a spontaneous thing,” Dr Friederike Range said. “The dogs needed a lot of training to learn it.”

In the study, dogs were rewarded if they successfully imitated a human’s simple task, such as opening a door with a hand, which the dogs had to learn to imitate using their paws.

Because dogs have a very different body shapes than people, they had to interpret and then imitate what they saw, Range said.

“This type of learning has obvious evolutionary advantages for animals,” Range said. “They can learn about certain aspects of life without having to learn by trial and error, which always comes with some risk.”

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Categorized | Animals, Other
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