Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Dogs Are Better than Humans at Resisting Peer Pressure, Filtering Bad Advice

A recent study from Yale University find that dogs are better at resisting peer-pressure and filtering useless information than human beings – but there's value in that human flaw.

Rex is a labrador mix, and a certified efficiency genius.
Rex is a labrador mix, and a certified efficiency genius.

Dogs are more no-nonsense than humans. A study from Yale University’s Canine Cognition Center reveals that dogs are better than people at filtering bad advice from good. In the experiment, researchers presented over 40 breeds of dogs with treats hidden inside puzzles. They then demonstrated the steps necessary to solving the puzzle. In doing so, they also included many unnecessary steps. When the dogs proceeded to solve the puzzle, the skipped the steps that had nothing to do with getting to the treats. Thus, the study revealed dogs’ ability to filter useful actions from irrelevant ones. Jeffrey Kluger sums up the results pithily in an article for Time: “[I]f dogs did wear pants, they would use either a belt or suspenders, but definitely not both.”


Humans, on the other hand, are not so savvy. When contrasted with a similar study from Yale that examined children, humans were found to rely more on imitation and failed to filter out unnecessary information. Bill Hathaway summarizes:

[C]hildren watched a demonstrator solve a puzzle by first moving a lever and then lifting a lid to pull out a prize. Although the lever was completely irrelevant for solving the puzzle, children repeatedly performed both actions, even when they were in a race to solve the puzzle as quickly as possible.

Whereas dogs are able to do away with unnecessary steps between them and treats, kids merely imitate the behaviors observed – both necessary and unnecessary – to access the item they want.

Another study from about a decade ago that looked at chimpanzees as well as humans drives home this contrast even more starkly. Both displayed a proclivity toward imitation over efficiency, with humans being the worse culprits. Compared with monkeys and mutts, we are the most easily duped by the silliness of others.

These conclusions about how human beings learn through imitation have deep implications for how we construct and navigate our environments. Yale Professor of Psychology Laurie Santos articulates the scope of these ramifications:

So this tells us something really important about how humans learn relative to other animals. We’re really trusting of the information that we get from other individuals – even more trusting than dogs are. And what this means is we have to be really careful about the kinds of information we present ourselves with. We're not going to have the right filter for bad information, so we should stick to looking at information that's going to be positive, information that's going to be good.

Our tendency to be influenced by the individuals we are exposed to might mean that we choose much of our social stimuli – who we hang out with, what news sources we consult, or perhaps even where we live – more carefully. 

But we need not despair at our relative shortcoming for discernment: our propensity for emulation turns out to be quintessentially helpful to human beings. As Angie Johnston, a PhD student at Yale and the principal author on the publication for the dog study, reflects:

Although the tendency to copy irrelevant actions may seem silly at first, it becomes less silly when you consider all the important, but seemingly irrelevant, actions that children are successfully able to learn, such as washing their hands and brushing their teeth.

As writer Cari Romm adds in an article for New York magazine, such proclivities to imitate are necessary for children with no understanding of hygiene to perform such behaviors. While dogs may beat kids to finding the prize efficiently, you’d be hard-pressed to get a dog to brush their teeth. 

Take your career to the next level by raising your EQ

Emotional intelligence is a skill sought by many employers. Here's how to raise yours.

Gear
  • Daniel Goleman's 1995 book Emotional Intelligence catapulted the term into widespread use in the business world.
  • One study found that EQ (emotional intelligence) is the top predictor of performance and accounts for 58% of success across all job types.
  • EQ has been found to increase annual pay by around $29,000 and be present in 90% of top performers.
Keep reading Show less

Yale scientists restore cellular function in 32 dead pig brains

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
Keep reading Show less

Here’s a map of Mars with as much water as Earth

A 71% wet Mars would have two major land masses and one giant 'Medimartian Sea.'

Just imagine: a Mars that's as wet as Earth.

Image: A.R. Bhattarai, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • Sci-fi visions of Mars have changed over time, in step with humanity's own obsessions.
  • Once the source of alien invaders, the Red Planet is now deemed ripe for terraforming.
  • Here's an extreme example: Mars with exactly as much surface water as Earth.
Keep reading Show less

The entrepreneur's guide to success: Follow these tips

Starting and running a business takes more than a good idea and the desire to not have a boss.

Videos
  • Anyone can start a business and be an entrepreneur, but the reality is that most businesses will fail. Building something successful from the ground up takes hard work, passion, intelligence, and a network of people who are equally as smart and passionate as you are. It also requires the ability to accept and learn from your failures.
  • In this video, entrepreneurs in various industries including 3D printing, fashion, hygiene, capital investments, aerospace, and biotechnology share what they've learned over the years about relationships, setting and attaining goals, growth, and what happens when things don't go according to plan.
  • "People who start businesses for the exit, most of them will fail because there's just no true passion behind it," says Miki Agrawal, co-founder of THINX and TUSHY. A key point of Agrawal's advice is that if you can't see yourself in something for 10 years, you shouldn't do it.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast