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Open AccessArticle

Local Dot Motion, Not Global Configuration, Determines Dogs’ Preference for Point-Light Displays

1
Laboratory of Applied Ethology, Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food Science, University of Padua, Viale dell’Università 16, 35020 Legnaro, Italy
2
Department of General Psychology, University of Padua, Via Venezia 8, 35131 Padova, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(9), 661; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090661
Received: 26 July 2019 / Revised: 27 August 2019 / Accepted: 3 September 2019 / Published: 6 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dog Behaviour, Physiology and Welfare)
Animal motion is characterised by predictable kinematics according to their body morphology and the laws of gravity. This pattern of movement, called biological motion, is traditionally studied using animated displays created by placing a small number of light dots on the major joints of living beings. Previous studies have shown that several animal species can reliably discriminate dot displays depicting an animal walking, and their performance is impeded when the display is turned upside-down and is variably affected when each dot is displaced to disrupt the global biological arrangement. In this study, we investigated this phenomenon in dogs during the presentation of dot displays depicting humans or dogs walking. Our findings showed that dogs preferred to view the display which depicted an upright dog, regardless of its global arrangement, and had no significant preferences when displays depicting humans were presented. This suggests that dogs’ sensitivity to biological motion depends mainly on the presence of dot motion that moves in accordance with gravity. Also, our findings suggest that, despite dogs’ extensive exposure to human motion, they are not sensitive to the bipedal motion presented in the human dot displays.
Visual perception remains an understudied area of dog cognition, particularly the perception of biological motion where the small amount of previous research has created an unclear impression regarding dogs’ visual preference towards different types of point-light displays. To date, no thorough investigation has been conducted regarding which aspects of the motion contained in point-light displays attract dogs. To test this, pet dogs (N = 48) were presented with pairs of point-light displays with systematic manipulation of motion features (i.e., upright or inverted orientation, coherent or scrambled configuration, human or dog species). Results revealed a significant effect of inversion, with dogs directing significantly longer looking time towards upright than inverted dog point-light displays; no effect was found for scrambling or the scrambling-inversion interaction. No looking time bias was found when dogs were presented with human point-light displays, regardless of their orientation or configuration. The results of the current study imply that dogs’ visual preference is driven by the motion of individual dots in accordance with gravity, rather than the point-light display’s global arrangement, regardless their long exposure to human motion. View Full-Text
Keywords: dog; biological motion; point-light display; visual perception; experience dog; biological motion; point-light display; visual perception; experience
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Eatherington, C.J.; Marinelli, L.; Lõoke, M.; Battaglini, L.; Mongillo, P. Local Dot Motion, Not Global Configuration, Determines Dogs’ Preference for Point-Light Displays. Animals 2019, 9, 661.

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