Individual differences in cooperative communicative skills are more similar between dogs and humans than chimpanzees

Evan L. MacLean, Esther Herrmann, Sunil Suchindran, Brian Hare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


By 2.5 years of age humans are more skilful than other apes on a set of social, but not nonsocial, cognitive tasks. Individual differences in human infants, but not chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, are also explained by correlated variance in these cooperative communicative skills. Relative to nonhuman apes, domestic dogs, Canis familiaris, perform more like human infants in cooperative communicative tasks, but it is unknown whether dog and human cognition share a similar underlying structure. We tested 552 dogs in a large-scale test battery modelled after similar work with humans and nonhuman apes. Unlike chimpanzees, but similarly to humans, individual differences in dogs were explained by correlated variance in skills for solving cooperative communicative problems. Direct comparisons of data from all three species revealed similar patterns of individual differences in cooperative communication between human infants (N = 105) and domestic dogs (N = 430), which were not observed in chimpanzees (N = 106). Future research will be needed to examine whether the observed similarities are a result of similar psychological mechanisms and evolutionary processes in the dog and human lineages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-51
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Behaviour
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • chimpanzee
  • cognition
  • communication
  • convergence
  • domestic dog
  • human
  • individual differences
  • test battery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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