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Study Aims To Read Dogs' Thoughts 154

jjp9999 writes "A new study at Emory University is trying to figure out what dogs think. The study uses functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to scan the dogs' brains while they're shown different stimuli. Results from the first study will be published by the Public Library of Science, where the dogs were shown hand signals from their owners. 'We hope this opens up a whole new door for understanding canine cognition and inter-species communication. We want to understand the dog-human relationship, from the dog's perspective,' said Gregory Berns, director of the Emory Center for Neuropolicy and lead researcher of the dog project."
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Study Aims To Read Dogs' Thoughts

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  • Hello? (Score:5, Funny)

    by dolo724 ( 22338 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:04PM (#39908877)
    Yes, this is Dog.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Katakaa ( 2632969 )
      I think it would be more interesting to study cats. Last night I was swimming at my pool (drunk), and the cats around my apartment building seemed interestingly intelligent. They come up on the bench to watch my computer screen, wanted to be hugged and generally seemed to have advanced thought process.

      On top of this, geckos seem rather intelligent too. Their callsign "gecko" is not that easy to make, as it has tons of variations in the tune. If you have ever heard the noise a gecko makes you know what I'm
      • Re:Hello? (Score:5, Funny)

        by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:18PM (#39908973)
        Cats thoughts: Kill the human? No, need food, human bad to eat. Kill the human? No, need catnip. Kill the human? No, need water. DOG. RUN.
        • Cats thoughts: Kill the human? No, need food, human bad to eat. Kill the human? No, need catnip. Kill the human? No, need water.

          More likely- "Kill the human? No, way too big."

          • "That's mine! That too! All that's mine, that's mine, but not that bit. It's been a good morning, I've eaten three times, slept six times and made a lot of things I'm going to see if I can't have sex with something!"

            (That line is the one which got Red Dwarf commissioned in the first place.)
            • Too bad you fucked it up then isn't it. It goes....

              "This is mine! That's mine, all this is mine! I'm claiming all this as mine! Except for that bit, I don't want that bit. But all the rest of this is mine! Hey this has been a good day, I've eaten five times, I've slept six times and I've made a lot of things mine...tomorrow I'm going to see if I can't have sex with something!" Ooowww Yeah!"

              Cat, Red Dwarf. Season one episode five, Confidence and Paranoia.

              • Not far off quoting from a 20 year old memory though! Life's too short to Google everything.
                • by bytta ( 904762 )
                  Sadly, googling these things, copying and pasting is usually faster than writing it from memory unless you're a really fast typist.
                  • Yeah. I don't so much call it "googling" as "having it remembered for me wholesale".

                    Hey, wait... now apparently Google thinks I vacationed on Mars at some point...

        • Re:Hello? (Score:5, Funny)

          by xevioso ( 598654 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:54PM (#39909247)

          Yeah, I used to think my cats jump up on the bed in the morning to see if I am awake so they can say hello and greet me as I start the new day. Actually I have figured out they are checking to see if I am alive or not so the feasting on my still-warm corpse can begin.

          • Re:Hello? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Paracelcus ( 151056 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:41PM (#39909575) Journal

            Anybody that thinks that there can be no bond between Humans and cats has not had a close friendship with one!

            In 1970 a few years after my dog Lady had died at age sixteen, a badly mauled little white tomcat was sitting in the hallway of the bldg in which I lived (it was open to the ally in the rear), I opened my door and said "you OK cat?" and with no warning he darted under my still opened sofa bed. Not wanting to lose any fingers by pulling him out I tried to coax him out with pieces of fried beef liver, he ate all the liver and a frankfurter (most of it from my hand) and finally got him to come out with a bowl of milk.

            I named him Casey Cat, he was the toughest, most pugnacious, scarred up, feisty little runt I had ever seen! He was an American short haired all white alley cat, with one eye damaged, chewed up ears and a missing canine tooth. He weighed in at about six pounds.

            Casey came and went as he pleased through an open window, He'd wake me by purring on my chest and when my eyes opened he'd grunt in my face with cat food breath (he could not meow). He was a very memorable friend!

            • by gtall ( 79522 )

              Cats certainly have higher mental functions, I had two Siamese sisters. Both would sulk when I pushed them away. In the last year of Tinkerbell's life, she started snuggling up real close to my chest at night in bed. This went on including her last night before I had to take her in for that last vet visit, kidney disease. That last night, Ariel was inconsolable, and she demanded to be right on the other side of Tinkerbell. Every night since Tinkerbell's last, Ariel snuggled up just like Tinkerbell

            • Anybody that thinks that there can be no bond between Humans and cats has not had a close friendship with one!

              Totally agree.

              My cat asks me to spend time with him in the garden. We cuddle for a while, then just sit in each others' presence. Very relaxing, I must say.

              Sometimes we go for night walks together. He alternates between walking alongside me and darting between shadows. And sometimes he wants us to just sit. (This can be a little uncomfortable for me when people walk by and wonder why some bloke is sitting/standing around, at night, seemingly alone, in suburbia.)

              It seems to me that the difference in soc

        • Seems more like "DOG! EAT IT! QUICK BEFORE IT GETS AWAY!"

          Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
          Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING

          ZOMG! Slashdot is censoring me just like Facebook!

        • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:28PM (#39909477)

          Cats thoughts

          Good attempt but your dialect and accent are off. As a long-time scholar of Cat, let me translate for you:

          I CAN KILLZ HOOMAN? No, need füdz, hoomanz is made of bad füdz.
          I CAN KILLZ HOOMAN? No, give catnipz plz. Kthnxbai.
          I CAN KILLZ HOOMAN? No, give waterz plz. Kthnxbai.
          DOG. RUN.

        • Cats thoughts: Kill the human? No, need food, human bad to eat. Kill the human? No, need catnip. Kill the human? No, need water. DOG. RUN.

          According to watching my 2 dogs, dog thoughts are thus:

          Squirrel! No, false alarm. Hey, what's that? I need to sniff it. Can I eat it? No. Can I pee on it? No. I'll bark at it! Hey, my humans are home! It's been 10 minutes that seemed like forever I need to sniff them. Hey, what's that? I need to sniff it.

          Wash, rinse, repeat.

      • I think it would be more interesting to study cats.

        Cats have 3 thoughts:
        If I were bigger, you'd be lunch
      • by rikkards ( 98006 )

        I read at one point that the reason cats are independent is not because they choose to, because they are not intelligent enough to form packs. I figure that is a stretch but I wish I could find that paper

        • by gtall ( 79522 )

          Cats pack, or pride. There was TV doc on cats and they had one story where a dog was terrorizing cats in a neighborhood. One day, they set up a trap. The dog went after a cat as bait and the rest jumped him.

      • Re:Hello? (Score:4, Informative)

        by gstrickler ( 920733 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @04:59PM (#39910297)

        A cat's thoughts []

        Cats and dogs are both quite intelligent. They're very different, dogs are typically more loyal, and they're social/pack oriented. They want to be part of a heirarchy with a leader (usually an alpha male). They want approval and acceptance into the pack.

        Cats are more possessive (they "own" you) and independent. Cats have a "language", their different vocalizations have different meanings. I learned to tell the difference such that I could recognize when I cats were asking for food, water, attention, going outside, caution, or when they just wanted to "talk" (be social). It's simplistic as a "language", but it's effective, and appears to be common to most cats, so it fulfills the requirements of being a "language".

        • Dogs also have a "language" - different types and tones of bark (danger, fear, play), many other combinations of body language and sound.

          (Said as an owner of three dogsand one retarded cat, and companion/housemate to a cat of normal feline intellect )

      • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 )

        I have had with cats and dogs my whole life. I find both to be equally interesting and I would love to know how a dog thinks. We had a mixed German Sheppard guard dog at our business named Lucky. He had a voracious appetite and would try to eat everything he could (amazingly he didn't eat his own feces, it wasn't good enough for him). That dog lived for food and escaping to find more food. He was also an individual, he was lovable and loyal but never wanted to really listen to anyone. Sometimes when we cal

      • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

        Cats are amazingly intelligent, but like people their individual intelligences vary. I knew a cat who could open a door by jumping up and grabbing the knob and swinging. I taught another cat to play dead on cue, point your finger at him and say "bang" and he'd fall over. One time maybe fifteen years ago I was visiting a frined in St Louis, and was woken up by what sounded like a child crying for help, plain as day -- "Help! Help! Help!" I opened the door and Jeff's cat walked in and sad, again plain as day,

    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:55PM (#39909249)

      The Canine speech decoder already exists: []

    • bacon!

    • by youn ( 1516637 )

      scooby, is that you? lol... I suggest you offer them your services for translation :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:08PM (#39908905)

    Bacon? Is that Bacon? Got to have that bacon! Bacon!

    • Dogs can be pretty clever though. I've been observing the development of my delightful pomeranian puppy and have noticed some quite complex emergent behaviour in terms of how she tries to manipulate me to get treats and stuff. Also I've translated a few of the cues she gives - two forepaws slapped down on the ground means no, jumping up in the air and spinning round means yes when I start listing off activities.

      • Dogs can be pretty clever though. I've been observing the development of my delightful pomeranian puppy and have noticed some quite complex emergent behaviour

        Just ask any pet owner and they'll tell you how communicative animals are, especially the most popular ones (cats&dogs). You just have to spend some time around them...

    • by bugnuts ( 94678 ) []

      i always liked this commercial despite not liking the product.

    • Squirrel!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Instead of Woof! we'll have

    "You are now trespassing on my territory. I have determined that you are not a friend and have no rights to your position. You are hereby advised to withdraw immediately, or run the risk of forcible removal and/or dismemberment."

  • by dryriver ( 1010635 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:13PM (#39908941)
    You know, the excellent God-Game by Lionhead Studios where you have to create & educate a "Creature" to fight for your people and interests. The creature in B&W 2, though artificial, is probably about as smart as your average dog. Oh well. Happy studying...
  • by naroom ( 1560139 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:14PM (#39908943)
    Why bother with MRI? We can just read the dog's diary. []
  • Old news. (Score:5, Funny)

    by AragornSonOfArathorn ( 454526 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:14PM (#39908945)
  • Squirrel! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frequency Domain ( 601421 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:16PM (#39908961)
    Darn the minimal post requirement! Subject says it all.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why not try to figure out what attractive women think instead of...okay mod me down now.

    • Why not try to figure out what attractive women think instead of

      "I bet that guy posts on Slashdot. Shun! Shun!

  • Your dog wants steak.

  • I think The Far Side [] nailed it, circa 25 years ago.

  • "My name is . . . Squirrel! . . . Hi there : )" I think Pixar's "Up" nailed it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What does that butt smell like?

    Can I eat that?

    Mitt Romney is a dick.
  • by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot.keirstead@org> on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:48PM (#39909185) Homepage

    A similar study to try to discover what cat's think, was foiled when the cats refused to participate fully in the study. Before they left, initial results showed the following thought: "Get out! The're onto us!"

  • Profit (Score:5, Funny)

    by Frankie70 ( 803801 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:49PM (#39909191)

    1) Read dog's thoughts.
    2) .......
    3) Profit.

    What's the missing 2nd step here?
    Only a dog would know. If only we could read their thoughts. Wait.....

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      2) Sell these "insights" to all the crazy people who'd do more for their dogs than their kids. What foods it likes, what play toys it likes, whatever else it wants... with kickbacks from the companies that make it, of course.

      • by jamesh ( 87723 )

        "Hmm...let me try a canine-human mind meld. It's an incredibly rare psychic power possessed only by me and three other clerks at this store."

      • So your assertion is that no parents anywhere use techniques provided by developmental psychology for their children?

        Because otherwise I fail to see how using training techniques provided by the very same could be considered doing more for the pet than the child.

  • Scrabble tiles (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:19PM (#39909427)

    Have they tried Scrabble tiles?

  • by elucido ( 870205 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:26PM (#39909465)

    I think this is a very good idea and there should be lots of research in this area. If we discover that animals have thoughts similar enough to ours then we will have to give them rights. Depending on how complex the thoughts they might require person status.

    This would at least in theory suggest we will need to consider animal rights when making political or economic decisions. Dogs in specific if they could communicate with us could completely change the relationship humans have with them.

    Although I'm going to be honest I don't expect talking dogs anytime soon.

    • That is a good argument if you want to convince people *not* to encourage this research.
      • by elucido ( 870205 )

        That is a good argument if you want to convince people *not* to encourage this research.

        The research is already being done encouraged or not. If you want to encourage it then you'll have to find some military application for it.

        • Military applications?

          Combat. Dolphins.
        • There's a story that in WW2 the Russians trained dogs to run under tanks by placing food there. Then, they released them in front of the enemy with bombs attached to their backs.

          However the dogs only associated food with friendly tanks - and they were smart enough to tell the difference. An own goal was recorded.

          Some might say it served them right, the godless commie bastards.

    • How complex do you exactly think the mind of a being who eats cat turds out of a littler box actually is?
    • Of all the hippy nonsense...

      I can assure you that dogs are not intelligent enough to be given the standard personal rights, and in some countries they already do have a (very) minimal set of rights.

      On the other hand, what this research will do (if successful) is allow us some insight into the workings of an intelligence entirely different from our own. Dogs and Humans common lineage is pretty far removed by any scale, so having a look could teach us a lot of things about intelligence.

      I'd wager that this can

  • I've always wondered what a dog is thinking that all these humans must be doing all day long.

    • Out hunting, probably. We seem to bring back food often enough.

      • Out hunting, while sitting in front of strange boxes that give light all day?!

        • I took 'doing' as in 'away from the home'. Otherwise, well, we could just be 'resting nervously'. Dogs can and will just lay there for hours on end if there's nothing all that necessary to do.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @03:47PM (#39909949) Journal
    An aspiring entomologist, named Gary Larson, had already published a short paper on what dogs hear. Unfortunately I don't have a link but it goes something like this:

    You: Stupid dog Bingo, Why did you do that Bingo? Should you always shred the paper like this Bingo? How can I read it now Bingo! You dimwit Bingo!

    Dog hears: xxxxxx xxx Bingo, xxx xxx xxx xxx xxxx Bingo? xxxxx xxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxx xxxxx xxxx xxxx Bingo? xxx xxx X xxxx xx xxx Bingo! xxx xxxxxx Bingo!

  • I forget which comedian this was from:

    "What would your dog say if it could talk? Probably 'You know, vomit really ain't half bad!'"

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @05:29PM (#39910431) Journal

    But dogs can already talk. I swear, here's an absolutely true conversion I had with my dog:

    Me: "Sparky, what's on top of a house?"

    Dog: "Roof!"

    Me: "Sparky, how does sand-paper feel?"

    Dog: "Rough!"

    Me: "Sparky, who is the best baseball player of all time?"

    Dog: "Ruthf!"

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Me: "Sparky, who is the best baseball player of all time?"

      Dog: "Ruthf!"

      Me: "Stupid dog. You're just barking."

      Dog (walks away, muttering): "DiMaggio?"

  • Dogs are pretty easy to read:

    If you have food:
    DROP THE FOOD! Oh PHULLEEZZZ drop the foooooddd!

    If you have beer:
    SPILL THE BEER! Oh PHULLLEEZZZ drop the beeeer!

    If you're leaving:
    STAY WITH MEEEEE.. Oh PHULEEZZZZ stay with meeee!

    When you're returning:

    Cats are even easier:
    Are you food yet?

    • Here's one of the major reasons I don't own a dog.

      If they're inside:
      Please let me out!

      If they're outside:
      Please let me in!

  • That's pretty much what my dogs think, apart from Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit sniff sniff sniff Rabbit Rabbit sniff

  • Try asking. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @08:00PM (#39911323)

    Try asking the dog. I have a large pack of working livestock dogs on our farm. We use sign language with them. They use some of the signs back to us. There are some limitations, they can't finger spell or do certain moves, but we have have developed a dog-gin mix of sign and vocal language. I also understand some of their own language. All told we have about 300 words that we use back and forth. This is enough language to talk about a lot of things.

    If you want to know what they're thinking, ask.

    • Now I am very curious. Can they tell you about past/future? Can they describe things (eg. locations, observations)? Can they take in multiple instructions before following through on them? Can they describe how they feel?
  • Bad Summary! Blah blah Modpoints blah blah TFA blah blah Apple blah blah...
  • The following two sets of data were collected:

    Set 1. Notes. Helmet fitted to dog. System started.

    Dog: "OMG this poop is delicious! I'm going eat ALL of it! And then go lick the lab human."

    Set 2. Notes. Helmet fitted to dog. System started. Note: I seem to have forgotten what I did here, and the dog is missing.

    Dog: "These damned humans interrupted me while I was contemplating superluminal particle theory. You! Human! Remove the helmet. Forget. Forget. Now sleep."

  • Another Gary Larson cartoon (no link, sorry) was "what dogs would say if they could talk" with the cartoon showning all the dogs saying "Hey!" :-)
  • Bow, Wow Wow!

    Bow! Woooo! Wow bow bow!

  • "Chase the cat! Chase the cat! Smell the butt! Hump the leg! Hump the leg! Smell the butt! Mmmmm! Bacon! Chase the cat! Chase the cat!"

  • I love it when he cocks his head like 'the fuck are you talking about?'. I wanna hear that dog.
  • So, does this mean dogs will have verbal translation collars, like in the movie UP! "Squirrel!!"

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly