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Dogs can be optimistic or pessimistic? - Yahoo! News

If your dog destroys the furniture when you are away, it could be a pessimist, researchers have concluded.

A study has found that some dogs are natural gloom-mongers while others have sunnier dispositions.

"We know that people's emotional states affect their judgments and that happy people are more likely to judge an ambiguous situation positively," said professor Mike Mendl, an author of the study and head of animal welfare and behavior at Bristol University.

"What our study has shown is that this applies similarly to dogs."

To measure canine psychology, researchers trained dogs to recognize that bowls on one side of a room contained food, while bowls on the other side were empty. They then placed the bowls in "neutral" locations between the two sides.

Just as happy people tend to see the positive in any situation, so optimistic dogs sprinted toward the bowl, expecting to find food, while pessimistic dogs hesitated or ran more slowly.

by Nomad on Wed Oct 13th, 2010 at 04:22:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't science wonderful?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Oct 14th, 2010 at 05:01:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was kinda wondering if the experiment used dogs of the same breed, identical age, similar life experiences, and at the same stage of hunger.

Article in Current Biology (pdf) :

The subjects were 24 dogs (50% male; estimated age range: 9-108
months) at two UK animal re-homing centres.

The experiment in fact concerned behaviour in circumstances of separation from usual human companions (no evidence offered on the dogs' affect wrt those humans). It proved, the authors say, that "pessimism" is caused by underlying mood.

Science is even more wonderful than I thought. Journalism too.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Oct 14th, 2010 at 05:25:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder how many were psychology students.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Oct 14th, 2010 at 08:12:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But maybe it destroys the furniture hoping to find food inside. Shouldn't that make it an optimist? More research is needed.
by gk (gk) on Thu Oct 14th, 2010 at 05:32:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More research is always needed. It's the scientific equivalent of economic growth.
by Nomad on Thu Oct 14th, 2010 at 06:52:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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