Guest talk – “Fruits of Ethology” series

Guest talk – “Fruits of Ethology” series

In the framework of the “Fruits of Ethology” guest talk series we will have the pleasure to welcome our next speaker, Charlotte Duranton (Université Aix-Marseille – Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive).

Date: 19th of October, Thursday, 15.45

Location: ELTE, Department of Ethology (South Building), Pázmány Péter sétány 1/c, 6th floor


Non-conscious behavioral synchronization is evolutionary adaptive. It participates in fostering social cohesion; affiliation between interacting partners is associated with a high level of behavioral synchronization in many species, including humans. Conversely, humans also show increased affiliation towards people who synchronized with them. Surprisingly, until recently, little was known about these phenomena at interspecific level. Investigating the existence of similar behaviors and psychological processes in two different species is essential to better understand the respective roles of evolution and ontogeny in the skills.
We therefore chose to investigate behavioral synchronization between two species that are closely associated and among which the effect of affiliation can be investigated. After presenting why dog-human dyads are a relevant biological model to study this field of social cognition, I will review the recent findings about dog-human behavioral synchronization.
We evidenced that behavioral synchronization of dogs towards humans is present between highly affiliated partners (i.e. pet dogs and their owners) in various situations. Pet dogs indeed synchronize their movement with their owners’ when freely walking inside or in open outside area, and when the owner adjusts differently to an unknown object or person.
We also investigated the effect of affiliation by testing lower affiliated partners (i.e. shelter dogs and their caregiver). It has been found that shelter dogs synchronize their behavior with their caregiver’s at lower rates than pet dogs with their owners when freely walking outside. More surprising, when encountering an unfamiliar person, shelter dogs do not synchronize their behavioral reaction with that of their caregiver contrarily to pet dogs relative to their owners. As between humans, affiliation thus modulates the degree of synchronization of dogs upon humans. This was the first time that the effect of affiliation on behavioral synchronization has been evidenced at interspecific level.
More astonishing, we have found that pet dogs present increased affiliation towards humans who synchronized their behavior with them. It is the third species in which such an ability is evidenced, after humans and capuchins; and thus the first time it is found in canids.
We conclude that, as in humans, behavioral synchronization acts as a social-glue between dogs and humans. It is the first time that such a human-like ability is evidenced at interspecific level, i.e. between humans and dogs.

All welcome!

Márta Gácsi & Ádám Miklósi