Saturday, February 02, 2013

Why Dogs Are Smarter Than Cats

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A not-so-smart best friend? Experiments in language and cognition show Fido's (sporadic) brilliance

By BRIAN HARE and VANESSA WOODS, WSJ

With half as many neurons in their cerebral cortex as cats—and half the attitude, some would say—dogs are often taken to be the less intelligent domestic partner. While dogs drink out of the toilet, slavishly follow their master and need a chaperone to relieve themselves, cats hunt self-sufficiently and survey their empire with a regal gaze.

But cats beware. Research in recent years has finally revealed the genius of dogs.

Like other language-trained animals—dolphins, parrots, bonobos—dogs can learn to respond to hundreds of spoken signals associated with different objects. What sets dogs apart is how they learn these words.

Cats can hold grudges and look like kings—but when it comes to memory, dogs get the pat on the head.

If you show a child a red block and a green block, and then ask for the chromium block, not the red block, most children will give you the green block, despite not knowing that the word "chromium" can refer to a shade of green. Children infer the name of the object. They know that you can't be referring to the red block.

(More here.)

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