Dogs May Be Adopting Sense of Fairness from Humans

Dogs May Be Adopting Sense of Fairness from Humans

Dogs May Be Adopting Sense of Fairness from HumansThis might not be new to you, but humans are not the only ones who notice and react to actions that are unfair. Aside from other primates like monkeys, chimpanzees and gorillas, dogs might also understand what fairness is.

More recent studies have demonstrated that canine’s brain is not as simple as we used to believe just a few decades ago. One study from March this year[1] alone has shown something most of us did not expect – a significant similarity between canine and human brains!

Now an upcoming traditional gathering of psychologists at American Psychological Association’s (APA) 122nd Annual Convention taking place on August 7th in Washington, DC will have experts discussing “fairness.” The aim is to acquire a better understanding of people’s desire for equity, however, multiple studies with animals – including dogs – will be presented at the convention as well. NGD will keep you posted on anything related that comes out of this.

For now, I wanted to bring your attention to a small research study[2] from 2012 conducted by Alexandra Horowitz, author of the famous book on canines Inside of a Dog, which didn’t seem to get enough attention back then. Alexandra, PhD, of Barnard College, will also be bringing this study with her to APA and discussing the results in greater depth.

Dogs might be learning from people as they age

In Alexandra’s experiment, dogs had to select either a “fair” or “unfair” dog trainer based on distribution of dog treats. The experiment has demonstrated that generally, domesticated dogs will care more about the amount of treats given to them rather than how fair the distribution has been.

However, it has also been observed that more canines of older age chose a “fair” trainer over the “unfair” one, while younger dogs went in the opposite direction.

In a nutshell: such outcome can suggest a possibility of canines being strongly affected by human-dog interaction over a prolonged period of time, which also affects dog’s sense of “fairness.” Older dogs are indeed smarter, but might also be more human-like than their younger counterparts.

For more details, we’ll need to hear what other observations have been made since then outside of the experiment, and what additional conclusions did the researcher has come to.



  1. Andics, Attila et al. Voice-Sensitive Regions in the Dog and Human Brain Are Revealed by Comparative fMRI. Current Biology, Vol.24, Issue 5, 574-578. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.058
  2. Horowitz, Alexandra. Fair is Fine, but More is Better: Limits to Inequity Aversion in the Domestic Dog. Social Justice Research, June 2012, Vol.25, Issue 2, 195-212. DOI: 10.1007/s11211-012-0158-7

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