Showing posts from March, 2014

Animals, Pets and Vermin

What do animals mean to you and what role do they play in your life? These and related questions were recently asked of ordinary people by the Mass Observation Project in the UK, and the results, in a paper by Alison Sealey and Nickie Charles, are fascinating. Photo: pjmorley / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Since 1937, the Mass Observation Project has been collecting information from ordinary people about life in Britain. Set up with the idea of creating “an anthropology of ourselves,” data collection continued until the early 50s when it stopped, and then resumed in the 1980s. Now, over 500 people are on the panel, and respond to open-ended questions three times a year. Researchers can commission questions, which is how this particular study came about. (If you live in the UK and are interested in Mass Observation, you can keep a one-day diary on Monday 12th May). Sealey and Charles asked a number of questions about the role of animals in people’s everyday lives. 249 peo

Will Dogs Work for Hot Dog?

How do scientists motivate dogs to take part in scientific research? Photo: kitty / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Canine science relies on dogs taking part in experiments so that researchers can learn more about what dogs know or how dogs behave. In some scientific studies dogs are allowed to act naturally, but in others they need to learn something such as how to operate an apparatus they haven’t seen before, or to observe people interacting. Either way, you can’t guarantee canine cooperation. So just how are dogs are motivated during the course of the research itself? Needless to say, food is a common denominator. We know that in dog training ,  great training treats can really help. Scientists have to consider what to use too, as dogs won't work for free. Many studies use sausage or hot dog. For example, in one study that looked at whether dogs can recognize human emotional expression  (Buttelmann and Tomasello, 2012), dogs were given a piece of sausage i

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