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Dog is watching: Episodic memory means they recall (almost) EVERYTHING

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Posted on December 26, 2016: A layperson may think that a pet will neither properly register nor remember all the mean things one did to him/ her. The truth is that a cruel pet parent can never get away with the ruthless behaviour he has shown towards his pets, especially if it’s a dog. Latest research has established the fact that dogs have a memory which can clearly chronicle the pitiless acts one has inflicted on the pet. This finding was published in the Current Biology magazine.

Whether or not the events were noteworthy at that particular time, canines like humans can remember erstwhile events. This, in turn, hints at the fact that dogs have episodic memory, which is the expertise to psychologically travel down memory lane and bring to mind certain experiences and particular events; like time, places and the emotions linked with them. Possessing episodic memory suggests that the dog is self-aware.

Episodic memory has been found in other animal species such as pigeons, rats and primates. The tests on these species were, however, conducted in a very different way and that too in laboratory settings. The test was based on their response to stimuli like the presence or absence of food.


To prove the presence of episodic memory in dogs, Claudia Fugazza, from Budapest in Hungary, of the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group, sought to get them to abide by a trick termed, ‘Do as I do.’
But this training wasn’t adequate proof that dogs had episodic memory. In certain scenarios, the canines weren’t supposed to be aware of the fact that they needed to recall certain actions. Nevertheless, they remembered all of them, thereby pointing to the fact that they had episodic memory.

The researchers added a second part to the ‘Do as I do’ test. The canines were instructed to lie down after watching a human being perform an action, never mind what that action may have been like. For instance, if the human performing the action stood on the table, the dog had to lie still. The scientists would surprise the canines by asking them to perform the same act. After a brief halt, the canines performed the action. The dogs could repeat the action after a minute and also after an hour. This clearly indicated that the dogs despite being conditioned that there was no necessity to remember this incident, were able to retain the information. They had simply seen how these acts were performed and hadn’t executed them before. They had to sift through the current information in their brain to excavate the necessary information, or in other words, rely on their episodic memory. This experiment is not for dogs alone and has implications for other animals as well.

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