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The semantics of talking with the eyes and gestures: The hormonal and cognitive underpinings of comprehending co-operative intentional communication in domestic dogs and wolves

Human communication is unique because we have language and we have an exceptional motivation to share information with others. The precursors of this skill, however, can be found in other animals as well. If one does not understand what words refer to, following
others’ gaze is an alternative way to figure out what another individual’s behaviour is directed to, and many animals are able to learn about the environment in this way. Humans, however, not only follow the line of others’ gaze but they also recognize the cooperative
communicative intention of a partner. Chimpanzees do not understand if someone is showing them where some food can be found, whereas humans and dogs can easily locate food in this way. It is a question, however, whether dogs rely on the same mechanisms
as humans when doing so, and whether other animals, such as wolves, are really incapable of such communication. Using sophisticated technologies, such as eye-tracking and genotyping the oxytocin receptor gene of the subjects, this project investigates to what extent dogs and wolves rely on the same cognitive and motivational mechanisms as humans when following the gaze or pointing gesture of others. The results of the project will help to re-construct the evolution of human communication as well as to better understand how dogs communicate with people.
communication wolf
domestic dog
The semantics of talks
Projektkoordination gesamt
Viranyi Zsofia
WWTF Cognitive Sciences Call 2011
Art der Forschung
Beteiligte Vetmed-Organisationseinheiten
Messerli Forschungsinstitut, Abteilung für Vergleichende Kognitionsforschung
(Weitere) Projektpartner
Kontakt: Zsolt Ronai
Semmelweis Egyetem, Üllői út 26, H-1085 Budapest, Ungarn
Kontakt: Friederike Range
Wolfsforschungszentrum, Österreich
Gefördert durch
Wiener Wissenschafts-, Forschungs- und Technologiefonds (WWTF), Schlickgasse 3/12, 1090 Wien, Österreich
24 Publikationen

Turcsán, B; Wallis, L; Berczik, J; Range, F; Kubinyi, E; Virányi, Z (2020): Individual and group level personality change across the lifespan in dogs. Sci Rep. 2020; 10(1):17276
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Park, SY; Bacelar, CE; Holmqvist, K (2019): Dog eye movements are slower than human eye movements. J Eye Movement Res. 2019; 12(8): 4
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Karl, S; Boch, M; Virányi, Z; Lamm, C; Huber, L (2020): Training pet dogs for eye-tracking and awake fMRI. Behav Res Methods. 2020; 52(2):838-856
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Kis, A; Oliva, JL; Virányi, Z; Topál, J (2019): Editorial: Oxytocin and Social Behaviour in Dogs and Other (Self-)Domesticated Species: Methodological Caveats and Promising Perspectives. Front Psychol. 2019; 10:732
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Cafazzo, S; Marshall-Pescini, S; Lazzaroni, M; Virányi, Z; Range, F (2018): The effect of domestication on post-conflict management: wolves reconcile while dogs avoid each other. R Soc Open Sci. 2018; 5(7):171553
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Cafazzo, S; Marshall-Pescini, S; Essler, JL; Virányi, Z; Kotrschal, K; Range, F (2018): In wolves, play behaviour reflects the partners" affiliative and dominance relationship. Anim Behav. 2018; 141:137-150
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Kovács, K; Virányi, Z; Kis, A; Turcsán, B; Hudecz, Á; Marmota, MT; Koller, D; Rónai, Z; Gácsi, M; Topál, J (2018): Dog-Owner Attachment Is Associated With Oxytocin Receptor Gene Polymorphisms in Both Parties. A Comparative Study on Austrian and Hungarian Border Collies. Front Psychol. 2018; 9:435
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Turcsán, B; Range, F; Rónai, Z; Koller, D; Virányi, Z (2017): Context and Individual Characteristics Modulate the Association between Oxytocin Receptor Gene Polymorphism and Social Behavior in Border Collies. Front Psychol. 2017; 8:2232
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Oláh, K; Topál, J; Kovács, K; Kis, A; Koller, D; Young Park, S; Virányi, Z (2017): Gaze-Following and Reaction to an Aversive Social Interaction Have Corresponding Associations with Variation in the OXTR Gene in Dogs but Not in Human Infants. Front Psychol. 2017; 8:2156
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Lampe, M; Bräuer, J; Kaminski, J; Virányi, Z (2017): The effects of domestication and ontogeny on cognition in dogs and wolves. Sci Rep. 2017; 7(1):11690
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Duranton, C; Range, F; Virányi, Z (2017): Do pet dogs (Canis familiaris) follow ostensive and non-ostensive human gaze to distant space and to objects? R Soc Open Sci. 2017; 4(7):170349
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Ujfalussy, DJ; Kurys, A; Kubinyi, E; Gácsi, M; Virányi, Z (2017): Differences in greeting behaviour towards humans with varying levels of familiarity in hand-reared wolves (Canis lupus). R Soc Open Sci. 2017; 4(6):160956
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Marshall-Pescini, S; Cafazzo, S; Virányi, Z; Range, F (2017): Integrating social ecology in explanations of wolf–dog behavioral differences. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 2017; 16: 80-86
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Marshall-Pescini, S; Rao, A; Virányi, Z; Range, F (2017): The role of domestication and experience in "looking back" towards humans in an unsolvable task. Sci Rep. 2017; 7:46636
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Marshall-Pescini, S; Virányi, Z; Kubinyi, E; Range, F (2017): Motivational Factors Underlying Problem Solving: Comparing Wolf and Dog Puppies" Explorative and Neophobic Behaviors at 5, 6, and 8 Weeks of Age. Front Psychol. 2017; 8:180
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Heberlein, MT; Turner, DC; Range, F; Virányi, Z (2016): A comparison between wolves, Anim Behav. 2016; 122:59-66
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Werhahn, G; Virányi, Z; Barrera, G; Sommese, A; Range, F (2016): Wolves (Canis lupus) and dogs (Canis familiaris) differ in following human gaze into distant space but respond similar to their packmates" gaze. J Comp Psychol. 2016; 130(3):288-298
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Vasconcellos, Ada S; Virányi, Z; Range, F; Ades, C; Scheidegger, JK; Möstl, E; Kotrschal, K (2016): Training Reduces Stress in Human-Socialised Wolves to the Same Degree as in Dogs. PLoS One. 2016; 11(9):e0162389
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Essler, JL; Cafazzo, S; Marshall-Pescini, S; Virányi, Z; Kotrschal, K; Range, F (2016): Play Behavior in Wolves: Using the "50:50" Rule to Test for Egalitarian Play Styles. PLoS One. 2016; 11(5):e0154150
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Müller, CA; Riemer, S; Virányi, Z; Huber, L; Range, F (2016): Inhibitory Control, but Not Prolonged Object-Related Experience Appears to Affect Physical Problem-Solving Performance of Pet Dogs. PLoS One. 2016; 11(2):e0147753
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Wallis, LJ; Virányi, Z; Müller, CA; Serisier, S; Huber, L; Range, F (2016): Aging effects on discrimination learning, logical reasoning and memory in pet dogs. Age (Dordr). 2016; 38(1):6
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Wallis, LJ; Range, F; Müller, CA; Serisier, S; Huber, L; Virányi, Z (2015): Training for eye contact modulates gaze following in dogs. Anim Behav. 2015; 106:27-35
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Range, F; Ritter, C; Virányi, Z (2015): Testing the myth: tolerant dogs and aggressive wolves. Proc Biol Sci. 2015; 282(1807):20150220
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Range, F; Jenikejew, J; Schröder, I; Virányi, Z (2014): Difference in quantity discrimination in dogs and wolves. Front Psychol. 2014; 5:1299
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