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The Responses of Young Domestic Horses to Human-Given Cues.

Proops L, Rayner J, Taylor AM, McComb K - PLoS ONE (2013)

Bottom Line: It has been suggested that the process of domestication, at least in some species, has led to an innate predisposition to be skilled at reading human communicative and attentional cues.Here we provide the first study into the ontogeny of such skills in order to gain insights into the mechanisms underlying these abilities.Compared with adult horses, youngsters under the age of three could use body orientation but not more subtle cues such as head movement and open/closed eyes to correctly choose an attentive person to approach for food.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Mammal Vocal Communication and Cognition Research, Department of Psychology, University of Sussex, Sussex, United Kingdom.

ABSTRACT
It has been suggested that the process of domestication, at least in some species, has led to an innate predisposition to be skilled at reading human communicative and attentional cues. Adult domestic horses (Equus caballus) are highly sensitive to subtle bodily cues when determining if a person is attending to them but they are less adept at using human communicative cues in object choice tasks. Here we provide the first study into the ontogeny of such skills in order to gain insights into the mechanisms underlying these abilities. Compared with adult horses, youngsters under the age of three could use body orientation but not more subtle cues such as head movement and open/closed eyes to correctly choose an attentive person to approach for food. Across two object choice experiments, the performance of young horses was comparable to that of adult horses - subjects were able to correctly choose a rewarded bucket using marker placement, pointing and touching cues but could not use body orientation, gaze, elbow pointing or tapping cues. Taken together these results do not support the theory that horses possess an innate predisposition to be particularly skilled at using human cues. Horses' ability to determine whether humans are attending to them using subtle body cues appears to require significant experience to fully develop and their perhaps less remarkable use of limited cues in object choice tasks, although present at a much earlier age, is likely to reflect a more general learning ability related to stimulus enhancement rather than a specific 'human-reading' skill.

No MeSH data available.


Comparison of the performances of young and adult horses in an attention attribution task.Percentage of correct responses for each cue type for both the youngsters in this study and adult horses reported in the study by Proops and McComb [14]. *  = p<0.05 (binomial probabilities, two-tailed predictions). Mixed1 refers to the cue given to adult horses in which body and head cues were conflicting. Mixed2 refers to the cue given to young horses in which head and eye cues were conflicting.
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pone-0067000-g002: Comparison of the performances of young and adult horses in an attention attribution task.Percentage of correct responses for each cue type for both the youngsters in this study and adult horses reported in the study by Proops and McComb [14]. *  = p<0.05 (binomial probabilities, two-tailed predictions). Mixed1 refers to the cue given to adult horses in which body and head cues were conflicting. Mixed2 refers to the cue given to young horses in which head and eye cues were conflicting.

Mentions: The scores for each subject can be seen in Table 1. As a group, young horses, like adult horses, chose the attentive person significantly more often than the inattentive person using the body cue (Binomial: N = 20, K = 17, P = 0.003), but unlike adult horses they did not use the head cue (Binomial: N = 22, K = 11, P>0.99) or the eye cue (Binomial: N = 21, K = 11, P>0.99). Neither did the young horses use the mixed cue (Binomial: N = 22, K = 10, P>0.83). The young horses performed at a comparable level to that of adult horses given the body cue (Fisher's Exact: N = 56, P = 0.39). Although the adult horses were able to use the head cue and the young horses were not, their performances were not found to be significantly different (χ2: N = 58, χ21  = 2.19, P = 0.14). The young horses were significantly worse than adult horses at using the eye cue (χ2: N = 57, χ21  = 4.0, P = 0.047). See Figure 2 for a comparison of the adult and young horses' cue use in the attention attribution task.


The Responses of Young Domestic Horses to Human-Given Cues.

Proops L, Rayner J, Taylor AM, McComb K - PLoS ONE (2013)

Comparison of the performances of young and adult horses in an attention attribution task.Percentage of correct responses for each cue type for both the youngsters in this study and adult horses reported in the study by Proops and McComb [14]. *  = p<0.05 (binomial probabilities, two-tailed predictions). Mixed1 refers to the cue given to adult horses in which body and head cues were conflicting. Mixed2 refers to the cue given to young horses in which head and eye cues were conflicting.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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pone-0067000-g002: Comparison of the performances of young and adult horses in an attention attribution task.Percentage of correct responses for each cue type for both the youngsters in this study and adult horses reported in the study by Proops and McComb [14]. *  = p<0.05 (binomial probabilities, two-tailed predictions). Mixed1 refers to the cue given to adult horses in which body and head cues were conflicting. Mixed2 refers to the cue given to young horses in which head and eye cues were conflicting.
Mentions: The scores for each subject can be seen in Table 1. As a group, young horses, like adult horses, chose the attentive person significantly more often than the inattentive person using the body cue (Binomial: N = 20, K = 17, P = 0.003), but unlike adult horses they did not use the head cue (Binomial: N = 22, K = 11, P>0.99) or the eye cue (Binomial: N = 21, K = 11, P>0.99). Neither did the young horses use the mixed cue (Binomial: N = 22, K = 10, P>0.83). The young horses performed at a comparable level to that of adult horses given the body cue (Fisher's Exact: N = 56, P = 0.39). Although the adult horses were able to use the head cue and the young horses were not, their performances were not found to be significantly different (χ2: N = 58, χ21  = 2.19, P = 0.14). The young horses were significantly worse than adult horses at using the eye cue (χ2: N = 57, χ21  = 4.0, P = 0.047). See Figure 2 for a comparison of the adult and young horses' cue use in the attention attribution task.

Bottom Line: It has been suggested that the process of domestication, at least in some species, has led to an innate predisposition to be skilled at reading human communicative and attentional cues.Here we provide the first study into the ontogeny of such skills in order to gain insights into the mechanisms underlying these abilities.Compared with adult horses, youngsters under the age of three could use body orientation but not more subtle cues such as head movement and open/closed eyes to correctly choose an attentive person to approach for food.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Mammal Vocal Communication and Cognition Research, Department of Psychology, University of Sussex, Sussex, United Kingdom.

ABSTRACT
It has been suggested that the process of domestication, at least in some species, has led to an innate predisposition to be skilled at reading human communicative and attentional cues. Adult domestic horses (Equus caballus) are highly sensitive to subtle bodily cues when determining if a person is attending to them but they are less adept at using human communicative cues in object choice tasks. Here we provide the first study into the ontogeny of such skills in order to gain insights into the mechanisms underlying these abilities. Compared with adult horses, youngsters under the age of three could use body orientation but not more subtle cues such as head movement and open/closed eyes to correctly choose an attentive person to approach for food. Across two object choice experiments, the performance of young horses was comparable to that of adult horses - subjects were able to correctly choose a rewarded bucket using marker placement, pointing and touching cues but could not use body orientation, gaze, elbow pointing or tapping cues. Taken together these results do not support the theory that horses possess an innate predisposition to be particularly skilled at using human cues. Horses' ability to determine whether humans are attending to them using subtle body cues appears to require significant experience to fully develop and their perhaps less remarkable use of limited cues in object choice tasks, although present at a much earlier age, is likely to reflect a more general learning ability related to stimulus enhancement rather than a specific 'human-reading' skill.

No MeSH data available.