Daphna Buchsbaum's Research: Dogs aren't especially smart, but they have a particular set of skills

October 1, 2018 by Department of Psychology

Recent research suggests that dogs may not be as smart in the way most people think but their abilities are unique. Stephen Lea, Professor Emeritus at the University of Exeter, conducted a study that showed there was no scientific evidence to support the idea that dogs are more intelligent than other species. Psychology’s Daphna Buchsbaum, principal investigator at the University of Toronto’s Canine Cognition Lab, says Lea’s research takes an unusual approach to cognition studies by comparing dog cognition to that of other animals rather than to the human species, which is the lens through which we have seen them in the past. Dr. Lea and his study co-author, Britta Osthaus, reviewed more than 300 existing cognition studies, comparing dog specific studies to those of other animals over three categories into which dogs fell: carnivores, social hunters and domesticated animals. The results showed that, while dogs did not stand out in any one category they matched other animals across all three categories, something no other animal studied was able to do. Dr. Buchsbaum says that, despite less than stellar performances by the studied dogs, the fact that they were shown to sit in the middle of all three categories was both interesting and significant. She welcomes Lea’s research that takes a broader look at dog behaviour rather than the usual ‘human-centric’ approach, with the perspective of comparing animals to other non-human animals. To learn more, listen to the CBC interview with Daphna Buchsbaum on animal cognition at https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/new-research-suggests-dogs-aren-t-exceptionally-smart-1.4862907 and/or check out the Popular Science article at https://www.popsci.com/dogs-not-smart.