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Dogs Can Understand The Meaning Of Nouns, New Study Reveals


A new study conducted by researchers at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary reveals that dogs understand what certain words stand for.

And to add to this, when dogs hear certain words, they even create a matching mental representation of the word in their minds.

The researchers discovered these by recording the brain activity of dogs using non-invasive electroencephalogram (EEG).

The study’s lead author from the Neuroethology of Communication Lab of the Department of Ethology at the Eötvös Loránd University, Marianna Boros, said “Dogs do not only react with a learned behavior to certain words.”

“They also don’t just associate that word with an object based on temporal contiguity without really understanding the meaning of those words, but they activate a memory of an object when they hear its name,” she continued.

For this study, the researchers had 18 dog owners say words for toys that the dogs were familiar with while showing the toys to them.

During the experiment, the dog owners would present the toy that match the words, but sometimes, they would present the toy that doesn’t match the words. And then the dog’s brain activity was captured on EEG.

The brain activity results showed a different pattern in the dog’s brain when shown a matching object vs a mismatched one.

The study also found that it doesn’t matter if a dog has a large vocabulary or not. Boros said, “It doesn’t matter how many object words a dog understands, known words activate mental representations anyway, suggesting that this ability is generally present in dogs and not just in some exceptional individuals who know the names of many objects.”

Another one of the study’s authors, Lilla Magyari, said, “Dogs are not merely learning a specific behavior to certain words, but they might actually understand the meaning of some individual words as humans do.”

The researchers are now curious if this ability to understand nouns and create a mental image of it in their minds is something that is unique to dogs or is something present in other mammals.

Nonetheless, the researchers said that this discovery is an important realization for dog owners. And it might also reshape the way scientists think about the “uniqueness of how humans use and understand language”.

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