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Do dogs really love us? Are they really feeling guilty when they give us that unmistakably guilty look? Can dogs outsmart children when put to the test?

Tune in to explore these questions and more, including:

  • How certain interactions with dogs trigger the release of hormones in our bodies, and theirs
  • Why domestication may have cost dogs their capacity for independent problem-solving
  • What happens in terms of the dog’s ability to pay attention and learn when we use baby talk to speak to them

Angie Johnston is an assistant professor at Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences whose work revolves primarily around two simple, yet very compelling questions: what can dogs tell us about dogs, and what can they tell us about humans?

Johnston is studying dogs closely in an attempt to grasp what’s really going on in their minds, and to better understand which parts of our psychology are uniquely human, and which are shared with our furry best friends. She does this by conducting studies which compare dog behavior and problem-solving with that of human toddlers around the age of four or five.

Some of the most surprising results came from a study looking at over-imitation, which is the tendency to imitate silly, unnecessary steps in a procedure, even when knowing they are silly or unnecessary. The findings would suggest that dogs are smarter than children, at least in this regard. And while that may be the case, Johnston explains why the findings actually make sense when viewed through a social and cultural lens.

She also explains the dog’s propensity to learn new words, the quantitative measures of their “love” for us and how they differ between domesticated dogs and wolves, the facial coding system in dogs and the evolution of that “puppy dog eyes” expression, and how the COVID-19 lockdowns have actually prompted Johnston and others to conduct virtual studies, which capture more purely the dog’s behavior in their home environment.

Tune in for the details and check out https://sites.bc.edu/doglab/ to learn more.

Available on Apple Podcasts: apple.co/2Os0myK

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