Visible and invisible displacement tasks have been used widely for comparative studies of animals" understanding of object permanence, with evidence accumulating that some species can solve invisible displacement tasks and, thus, reach Piagetian stage 6 of object permanence. In contrast, dogs appear to rely on associative cues, such as the location of the displacement device, during invisible displacement tasks. It remains unclear, however, whether dogs, and other species that failed in invisible displacement tasks, do so because of their inability to form a mental representation of the target object, or simply because of the involvement of a more salient but potentially misleading associative cue, the displacement device. Here we show that the use of a displacement device impairs the performance of dogs also in visible displacement tasks: their search accuracy was significantly lower when a visible displacement was performed with a displacement device, and only two of initially 42 dogs passed the sham-baiting control conditions. The negative influence of the displacement device in visible displacement tasks may be explained by strong associative cues overriding explicit information about the target object"s location, reminiscent of an overshadowing effect, and/or object individuation errors as the target object is placed within the displacement device and moves along a spatiotemporally identical trajectory. Our data suggest that a comprehensive appraisal of a species" performance in object permanence tasks should include visible displacement tasks with the same displacement device used in invisible displacements, which typically has not been done in the past.
Animals Association* Behavior, Animal/physiology* Cues* Dogs Female Male Neuropsychological Tests/standards* Psychomotor Performance/physiology* Space Perception/physiology*