Self-Control Without a "Self"? Common Self-Control Processes in Humans and Dogs

Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0044, USA.
Psychological Science (Impact Factor: 4.43). 04/2010; 21(4):534-8. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610364968
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Self-control constitutes a fundamental aspect of human nature. Yet there is reason to believe that human and nonhuman self-control processes rely on the same biological mechanism--the availability of glucose in the bloodstream. Two experiments tested this hypothesis by examining the effect of available blood glucose on the ability of dogs to exert self-control. Experiment 1 showed that dogs that were required to exert self-control on an initial task persisted for a shorter time on a subsequent unsolvable task than did dogs that were not previously required to exert self-control. Experiment 2 demonstrated that providing dogs with a boost of glucose eliminated the negative effects of prior exertion of self-control on persistence; this finding parallels a similar effect in humans. These findings provide the first evidence that self-control relies on the same limited energy resource among humans and nonhumans. Our results have broad implications for the study of self-control processes in human and nonhuman species.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: It has been hypothesized that self-control is constrained by a limited energy resource that can be depleted through exertion. Once depleted, this resource can be replenished by the consumption or even the taste of glucose. For example, the need to inhibit reduces subsequent persistence at problem solving by humans and dogs, an effect that is not observed when a glucose drink (but not placebo) is administered following initial inhibition. The mechanism for replenishment by glucose is currently unknown. Energy transfer is not necessary, though insulin secretion may be involved. This possibility was investigated in the current study by having dogs exert self-control (sit–stay) and subsequently giving them (1) glucose that causes the release of insulin, (2) fructose that does not result in the release of insulin nor does it affect glucose levels (but is a carbohydrate), or (3) a calorie-free drink. Persistence measures indicated that both glucose and fructose replenished canine persistence, whereas the calorie-free drink did not. These results indicate that insulin release is probably not necessary for the replenishment that is presumed to be responsible for the increase in persistence. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Canine Behavior.
    Behavioural Processes 09/2014; 110. DOI:10.1016/j.beproc.2014.09.030 · 1.46 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Inhibitory control i.e. blocking an impulsive or prepotent response in favour of a more appropriate alternative, has been suggested to play an important role in cooperative behaviour. Interestingly, while dogs and wolves show a similar social organization, they differ in their intraspecific cooperation tendencies in that wolves rely more heavily on group coordination in regard to hunting and pup-rearing compared to dogs. Hence, based on the 'canine cooperation' hypothesis wolves should show better inhibitory control than dogs. On the other hand, through the domestication process, dogs may have been selected for cooperative tendencies towards humans and/or a less reactive temperament, which may in turn have affected their inhibitory control abilities. Hence, based on the latter hypothesis, we would expect dogs to show a higher performance in tasks requiring inhibitory control. To test the predictive value of these alternative hypotheses, in the current study two tasks; the 'cylinder task' and the 'detour task', which are designed to assess inhibitory control, were used to evaluate the performance of identically raised pack dogs and wolves. Results from the cylinder task showed a significantly poorer performance in wolves than identically-raised pack dogs (and showed that pack-dogs performed similarly to pet dogs with different training experiences), however contrary results emerged in the detour task, with wolves showing a shorter latency to success and less perseverative behaviour at the fence. Results are discussed in relation to previous studies using these paradigms and in terms of the validity of these two methods in assessing inhibitory control.
    PLoS ONE 02/2015; 10(2):e0118469. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0118469 · 3.53 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Attention is pivotal to consciousness, perception, cognition, and working memory in all mammals, and therefore changes in attention over the lifespan are likely to influence development and aging of all of these functions. Due to their evolutionary and developmental history, the dog is being recognized as an important species for modeling human healthspan, aging and associated diseases. In this study, we investigated the normal lifespan development of attentiveness of pet dogs in naturalistic situations, and compared the resulting cross-sectional developmental trajectories with data from previous studies in humans. We tested a sample of 145 Border collies (6 months to 14 years) with humans and objects or food as attention attractors, in order to assess their attentional capture, sustained and selective attention, and sensorimotor abilities. Our results reveal differences in task relevance in sustained attentional performance when watching a human or a moving object, which may be explained by life-long learning processes involving such stimuli. During task switching we found that dogs' selective attention and sensorimotor abilities showed differences between age groups, with performance peaking at middle age. Dogs' sensorimotor abilities showed a quadratic distribution with age and were correlated with selective attention performance. Our results support the hypothesis that the development and senescence of sensorimotor and attentional control may be fundamentally interrelated. Additionally, attentional capture, sustained attention, and sensorimotor control developmental trajectories paralleled those found in humans. Given that the development of attention is similar across humans and dogs, we propose that the same regulatory mechanisms are likely to be present in both species. Finally, this cross-sectional study provides the first description of age group changes in attention over the lifespan of pet dogs.
    Frontiers in Psychology 02/2014; 5:71. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00071 · 2.80 Impact Factor