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Archive for December 26th, 2010

Wanna see me recite Shakespeare?

Researchers at Wofford College in South Carolina have what may be the smartest dog in the world:

Cats rule, dogs drool, right? Not this time. It looks like the dogs have won this round thanks to a border collie named Chaser, who has the largest vocabulary seen in any animal.

Alliston Reid and John Pilley, psychologists at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, have been working with Chaser to see if there is a limit to the number of words a border collie can learn. So far, Chaser knows 1,022 words.

(…)

Reid and Pilley taught Chaser to recognize the names of 1,022 toys over a three year period. Toys were presented to Chaser individually, and the name of the toy would be repeated in order to help Chaser learn to recognize it.

To make sure Chaser was actually learning the names of these toys, she was tested on a regular basis. Tests consisted of researchers choosing 20 toys at random, and allowing Chaser to retrieve them when the toy’s name was called. The toys were put in an entirely different room so that researchers could not “unintentionally give Chaser cues about which toy to choose.”

Out of a total of 838 tests over a three year time span, researchers reported that Chaser chose at least 18 out of 20 correct toys when the toy’s name was called.

They’ve also taught Chaser to recognize objects by shape and function, matching the developmental level of a human three-year old.

Pretty darned impressive, and I don’t say this just because I’m a “dog person.” In my family we were sure our dogs understood the meaning of some words, not just recognized sounds. Chaser and her human staff* seem to have taken this to the next level, however.

But, does anyone else get a slightly unnerving Planet of the Apes vibe from this? “Get your paws off me, you damned dirty mutt!” 😉

*Oh, admit it. Anyone who’s ever had a dog or a cat knows who the real boss is.

via The Dog Files

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