The sense of fair play is an important human trait, but new research suggests that it’s a key behaviour for dogs and wolves as well.
In tests, if one animal was given a more substantial reward when performing a task, the other one downed tools completely.
It had been felt that this aversion to unfairness was something that dogs had learned from humans.
But the tests with wolves suggest that this predates domestication of dogs.
Scientists have long recognised that what they term a “sensitivity to inequity”, or a sense of fairness, played an important role in the evolution of co-operation between humans. Basically, if others treated you badly, you quickly learned to stop working with them.
Researchers believe that the behaviour is also found widely in non-human primates.Dogs and wolves with higher social status took umbrage faster when sensing unfairness
Experiments in 2008 demonstrated that dogs also had this sensitivity. This new study shows that it’s also deeply ingrained in wolves.
The scientists tested similarly raised dogs and wolves that lived in packs. Two animals of each species were placed in adjacent cages, equipped with a buzzer apparatus. When the dog or wolf pressed it with their paw, both animals got a reward on some occasions. Other times, the dog or wolf doing the task got nothing while the partner did.
The key finding was that when the partner got a high value treat, the animal doing the task refused to continue with it.
“When the inequity was greatest they stopped working,” said Jennifer Essler, from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna. read more…