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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 object choice tasks.Percentage of correct responses for each cue type for both the youngsters in Experiments 1 and 2 from this study and the adult horses reported in the study by Proops et al. [31]. *  = p<0.05 (binomial probabilities, two-tailed predictions). 1 refers to the distal sustained point cue; 2 refers to the momentary tapping cue; 3 refers to the sustained touch cue, facing ahead; 4 refers to the sustained touch cue, facing the ground; 5 refers to the momentary touch cue, facing the ground.
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pone-0067000-g003: Comparison of the performances of young and adult horses in object choice tasks.Percentage of correct responses for each cue type for both the youngsters in Experiments 1 and 2 from this study and the adult horses reported in the study by Proops et al. [31]. *  = p<0.05 (binomial probabilities, two-tailed predictions). 1 refers to the distal sustained point cue; 2 refers to the momentary tapping cue; 3 refers to the sustained touch cue, facing ahead; 4 refers to the sustained touch cue, facing the ground; 5 refers to the momentary touch cue, facing the ground.

Mentions: In the second object choice experiment, the young horses as a group were able to use all the cues given; the marker placement cue (Binomial: N = 15, K = 12, P = 0.035), the sustained touch cue, gazing at the ground (Binomial: N = 15, K = 12, P = 0.035), the momentary touch cue, gazing at the ground (Binomial: N = 15, K = 12, P = 0.035) and the sustained touch cue, gazing ahead (Binomial: N = 15, K = 12, P = 0.035). All of the adult horses and 10/12 of the young horses that correctly used the marker placement cue investigated the marker before the bucket. There were no significant differences in the performance of the adult and young horses when given the same cues (χ2 and Fisher's Exact Test: distal sustained point: N = 53, χ21  = 0.78, P = 0.38; tapping: N = 53, χ21  = 0.44, P = 0.51; body orientation: N = 52, χ21  = 1.21, P = 0.27; gaze alternation: N = 53, χ21  = 0.41, P = 0.52; marker placement: N = 43, P = 0.32). See Figure 3 for a comparison of the adult and young horses' cue use in the object choice 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 object choice tasks.Percentage of correct responses for each cue type for both the youngsters in Experiments 1 and 2 from this study and the adult horses reported in the study by Proops et al. [31]. *  = p<0.05 (binomial probabilities, two-tailed predictions). 1 refers to the distal sustained point cue; 2 refers to the momentary tapping cue; 3 refers to the sustained touch cue, facing ahead; 4 refers to the sustained touch cue, facing the ground; 5 refers to the momentary touch cue, facing the ground.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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pone-0067000-g003: Comparison of the performances of young and adult horses in object choice tasks.Percentage of correct responses for each cue type for both the youngsters in Experiments 1 and 2 from this study and the adult horses reported in the study by Proops et al. [31]. *  = p<0.05 (binomial probabilities, two-tailed predictions). 1 refers to the distal sustained point cue; 2 refers to the momentary tapping cue; 3 refers to the sustained touch cue, facing ahead; 4 refers to the sustained touch cue, facing the ground; 5 refers to the momentary touch cue, facing the ground.
Mentions: In the second object choice experiment, the young horses as a group were able to use all the cues given; the marker placement cue (Binomial: N = 15, K = 12, P = 0.035), the sustained touch cue, gazing at the ground (Binomial: N = 15, K = 12, P = 0.035), the momentary touch cue, gazing at the ground (Binomial: N = 15, K = 12, P = 0.035) and the sustained touch cue, gazing ahead (Binomial: N = 15, K = 12, P = 0.035). All of the adult horses and 10/12 of the young horses that correctly used the marker placement cue investigated the marker before the bucket. There were no significant differences in the performance of the adult and young horses when given the same cues (χ2 and Fisher's Exact Test: distal sustained point: N = 53, χ21  = 0.78, P = 0.38; tapping: N = 53, χ21  = 0.44, P = 0.51; body orientation: N = 52, χ21  = 1.21, P = 0.27; gaze alternation: N = 53, χ21  = 0.41, P = 0.52; marker placement: N = 43, P = 0.32). See Figure 3 for a comparison of the adult and young horses' cue use in the object choice 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.