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Journal Article

Experience has a limited effect on humans’ ability to predict the outcome of social interactions in children, dogs and macaques


Bräuer,  Juliane
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Donnier, S., Kovács, G., Oña, L. S., Bräuer, J., & Amici, F. (2020). Experience has a limited effect on humans’ ability to predict the outcome of social interactions in children, dogs and macaques. Scientific Reports, 10(1): 21240, pp. 1-10. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-78275-5.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-8446-5
The ability to predict others’ behaviour represents a crucial mechanism which allows individuals to react faster and more appropriately. To date, several studies have investigated humans’ ability to predict conspecifics’ behaviour, but little is known on our ability to predict behaviour in other species. Here, we aimed to test humans’ ability to predict social behaviour in dogs, macaques and humans, and assess the role played by experience and evolution on the emergence of this ability. For this purpose, we presented participants with short videoclips of real-life social interactions in dog, child and macaque dyads, and then asked them to predict the outcome of the observed interactions (i.e. aggressive, neutral or playful). Participants were selected according to their previous species-specific experience with dogs, children and non-human primates. Our results showed a limited effect of experience on the ability to predict the outcome of social interactions, which was mainly restricted to macaques. Moreover, we found no support to the co-domestication hypothesis, in that participants were not especially skilled at predicting dog behaviour. Finally, aggressive outcomes in dogs were predicted significantly worse than playful or neutral ones. Based on our findings, we suggest possible lines for future research, like the inclusion of other primate species and the assessment of cultural factors on the ability to predict behaviour across species.