Brain differences appear to give canine females a boost in at least one task
The researchers set up a wooden board and a system of blue tennis balls attached to strings. The dogs, 25 female and 25 male, watched one of four scenarios: A small ball disappearing behind the board and re-emerging; a large ball disappearing and re-emerging; a large ball disappearing and a small ball emerging; or a small ball disappearing and a large ball emerging. The first two experiments were the “expected” conditions, which didn’t break any laws of nature. The second two events, in which a ball would seem to shrink or grow while out of sight, were the “unexpected” or impossible conditions.
The researchers measured the dogs’ ability to understand that something impossible had just happened by measuring how long they stared at the emerging ball. “If something unexpected or, say, impossible is to happen, children and animals will look longer at the event,” Müller said.
Female dogs stared at the “unexpected” conditions for more than 30 seconds on average, more than three times longer than the 10 seconds or so they spent looking at the balls when they didn’t change size.The sex difference emerged across breeds, which ranged from large to small, purebred to mixed, Müller said.
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