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What Are You or Who Are You? The Emergence of Social Interaction Between Dog and an Unidentified Moving Object (UMO)

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What Are You or Who Are You? The Emergence of Social Interaction Between Dog and an Unidentified Moving Object (UMO)

Anna Gergely et al. PLoS One.

Abstract

Robots offer new possibilities for investigating animal social behaviour. This method enhances controllability and reproducibility of experimental techniques, and it allows also the experimental separation of the effects of bodily appearance (embodiment) and behaviour. In the present study we examined dogs' interactive behaviour in a problem solving task (in which the dog has no access to the food) with three different social partners, two of which were robots and the third a human behaving in a robot-like manner. The Mechanical UMO (Unidentified Moving Object) and the Mechanical Human differed only in their embodiment, but showed similar behaviour toward the dog. In contrast, the Social UMO was interactive, showed contingent responsiveness and goal-directed behaviour and moved along varied routes. The dogs showed shorter looking and touching duration, but increased gaze alternation toward the Mechanical Human than to the Mechanical UMO. This suggests that dogs' interactive behaviour may have been affected by previous experience with typical humans. We found that dogs also looked longer and showed more gaze alternations between the food and the Social UMO compared to the Mechanical UMO. These results suggest that dogs form expectations about an unfamiliar moving object within a short period of time and they recognise some social aspects of UMOs' behaviour. This is the first evidence that interactive behaviour of a robot is important for evoking dogs' social responsiveness.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. The three test partners: a; Mechanical UMO b; Social UMO c; Mechanical Human (for more details see text).
Figure 2
Figure 2. Experimental room and paths of partners’ move.
O = place of the owner, D = place of the dog, E = position of Experimenter 2, F = three plates as potential food sources, A = start point of the partner, B = place of the box. Green circles indicate the location of the cameras. The triangle presents distance between the dog the partner and the place of the inaccessible food (box). Black lines show the paths of the partner to the plate (location of the food), to the box and back to the start point. Orange lines show the different path of the Social UMO compared to the Mechanical partners (UMO or Human) to each plates, box and different start points during the 2nd to 6th trials (red X). Blue lines show the path which in the partner goes back to the box from the start point and bring the food to the dog.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Comparison of different behavioural measures between the Mechanical UMO and Mechanical Human condition during a 30 sec period in each trial when dogs were allowed to move freely.
a; mean duration of looking at the partner (UMO or Human) b; mean frequency of gaze alternations between the partner (UMO or Human) and the place of food c; ratio of dogs who touched the partner with its muzzle (UMO or Human) d; mean latency of touching the partner with muzzle (UMO or Human).
Figure 4
Figure 4. Comparison of the ratio of looking dogs and the latency of looking at the partner in the Mechanical UMO, Mechanical Human and Social UMO conditions during a 30 sec period in each trial when dogs were allowed to move freely.
a; ratio of dogs looked at the partner b; mean latency of looking at the partner.
Figure 5
Figure 5. Analysis of the dogs’ behavioural variables during the first and last trials in each condition.
a; mean duration of looking at the partner (UMO or Human) b; mean frequency of gaze alternations between the partner (UMO or Human) and the place of food c; mean latency of looking at the partner (UMO or Human) d; mean latency of touching the partner with muzzle (UMO or Human) (* p<0.05, ** p<0.005).

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Grant support

This research was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Sinergia project SWARMIX (project number CRSI22 133059) and the Hungarian Science Foundation (OTKA grant K-100695). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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