Melissa Locker
October 18, 2018
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Not to alarm you, but there’s a good chance your dog may be judging you.

While most Southerners strive for politeness, occasionally someone (bless their heart) gets on your last nerve and you can’t help but be just a little rude.  The next time that happens, make sure your pup isn’t in the room with you.  A recent study shows that dogs are well aware when someone is being rude.

Scientists have figured out that babies, as young as just one-year old, can sense whether a person is being rude. After hearing about that assessment, James Anderson, a comparative psychologist at Kyoto University in Japan, wondered if the same sense of morality was in animals, too. After all, previous research shows that dogs are as smart as your average two-year old and some dog owners will swear they are far more intelligent than that relatively low bar.

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Anderson set about devising a test where people were rude in front of capuchin monkeys and dogs and gauging their reaction. They began by testing whether pups would show a preference for people who helped their owner—after all, not helping is rude, right? The dogs watched as his owner struggled to open a container with a toy inside. When the owner couldn’t open the container, they would present it to an actor who would either help or refuse to assist. The owner would then hand the container to a second actor who would act out the same scene. Afterwards, both actors offered the dog a snack and let the dog chose whose offer to accept. In Anderson’s experiments, if the first actor had refused to help an owner, the dogs preferred to accept treats from the person who wouldn’t lift a finger to help. (My dog, of course, would have taken both snacks and then ignored me to beg for seconds.)

Anderson told New Scientist that dogs likely have an ability to sense negativity (read: rudeness ) in humans similar to the one shown by human infants. “If somebody is behaving antisocially, they probably end up with some sort of emotional reaction to it,” he said. As Anderson and his colleagues put it in their study, published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, “Dogs negatively evaluate people who refuse to help their owners” in much the same way that you negatively evaluate the person who cuts in front of you in the check out line at Publix.