Your comments have been so interesting about the ‘fair’ and/or “jealous” issue that I thought I’d respond in another post for everyone to read. I’ve included some of your comments, because they add so richly to the discussion.
First off, I agree with many who’ve commented that we need to be very cautious about making interpretations from the results of this study. The bottom line is that while the dog’s responsiveness degraded, as expected, if the food reinforcement was taken away, it degraded faster if another dog was observed receiving reinforcement. That was the “inequality aversion” that the authors mentioned (and yes, I believe it was the media that added “fairness” and “jealousy.” The dogs also could receive one of two rewards, brown bread or sausage. While a similar primate study found that the subjects responded differently to a ‘high quality’ versus a ‘low quality’ reward, the dogs are described as not caring. I’m especially cautious of interpreting this result as a meaningful species difference: who knows if the difference between what the primates got was the same as the difference between brown bread and sausage? (Have you ever had real European brown bread? I’d fly across the Atlantic just to get some if I could afford it… But perhaps it is a species difference in that dogs are scavengers and many of them love just about any kind of food. One of my BC’s, Pippy Tay, loved the sunflower seed shells under the bird feeder. The shells. LOVED them. Go figure.)
Here are some of the many interesting comments re the ‘fairness’ versus ‘jealousy’ issue:
. . . in my American mind jealousy has to do with a perceived loss of interaction or affection, while fairness has to do with the inequality of reward. In this instance, and at least at first glance, the dogs seem to be refusing to work because of the inequality in earnings/rewards rather than protesting that the other dog was receiving more attention, but that’s where this study becomes very tricky…
It seemed like this was a good time to look up the dictionary definitions: Here is the result from Word Dictionary (my beloved huge dictionary is at home, I’ll look it up there over the holidays):
JEALOUS “feeling bitter and unhappy because of another’s advantages, possessions or luck.
FAIRNESS not exhibiting any bias, and therefore reasonable or impartial.
This fits a bit with what I had been thinking; Here’s my take on it: I think of jealousy as a relatively simple kind of emotion. As I said in the book For the Love of a Dog, although some scientists think jealousy is an emotion that requires “Theory of Mind,” or being able to think about the thoughts of others, I’ve always thought that it was relatively simple version of the core emotion of anger: “You’ve got it, I want it, I don’t have it, I’m not happy about that at all.” It seems reasonable to label that as a kind of frustration, which is a kind of anger, don’t you think? Note what Jennifer said in relation to that:
My inclination is to say that the study may have been measuring something else other than the dog’s attitude in response to the other dog being rewarded…….Frustration is a far less sophisticated emotion than either jealousy or fairness (which I believe are fundamentally different from one another) and, thus, in the spirit of assuming the least complicated explanation as necessary to explain an event, I’m going to side with frustration.
So interesting… is jealousy more complicated than frustration? I’m not sure. I completely agree that ‘fairness’ is another issue. My interpretation of fairness leans toward the concept of social justice. Of course, we use the term in at least two ways: “That’s not FAIR!” a child might say if his brother or sister gets something bigger or better. Surely that’s the simplest version of ‘fairness’ but it’s hard to separate it out from jealousy or frustration. But what if one child (or dog) watched two OTHER children or dogs getting, or not getting an expected reward. Then what would they think? It seems to me that the most sophisticated version of fairness would relate not so much to how one is treated oneself, but how others are treated, according to some social code. Does that make sense? (That’s the study I’d love to see… how would a dog respond if he saw another being treated inequitably?!)
There are lots of other interesting comments, don’t hesitate to read them all in the earlier post, and add yours here or on the first one. Meanwhile, I’m not sure if Lassie’s chinese medicine veterinarian will make it out in yet ANOTHER snow storm. At least it is no longer 10 below and windy. Poor Lassie urinated in the house yesterday morning. I took her outside just to pee and she looked at me and ran to the door. It was brutal, truly. It’s been quite a winter already, and it’s not even the end of December yet. (Didn’t winter just start the day before yesterday? Geeez.)
Here’s a photo from last winter, (and we have MORE snow so far than we did at the same time last winter!)
But here’s some things to warm your heart: first, Jim’s famous Christmas cookies, that we decorated in yet another snow storm last week:
And least but not least, have you seen this? A friend sent me the url, and I can’t imagine a better holiday present to dog lovers. Here’s hoping that you and yours are able to forget about life’s troubles for a few days, and envelop yourself in love, care and gratitude. HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM TRISHA, LASSIE AND WILL.
I am a bit late responding to these questions but for what it is worth here are my reactions.
I tried answering this three times and even lost sleep, but here is my reasoning.
Stage 1: Two dogs, either separately or together (I don’t think this matters) are trained to offer a paw on cue. Training presumably was done identically in both cases: cue, paw, reward. One question here is whether the training ended with rewards on every performance or as happens more typically in dog training with rewards given sporadically (forgot the term). Moreover, in the latter case one might wish to know how infrequently the rewards were given when this part of the experiment ended.
Stage 2: Now the two dogs are sitting on either side of the trainer. The cue is given and initially both dogs offer the paw. Dog 1 is rewarded, dog 2 is not. This is done a number of times and presumably dog 1 is always rewarded, dog 2 is never rewarded. After x number of trials dog 2 stops offering the paw on cue while dog 1 continues to do so (and gets rewarded). It would be interesting to know if dog 2 stops offering the cue on trial x and then never offers on any subsequent trial, or whether he offers the paw once in a while but it dies out until it never is offered (tho not sure if this is relevant).
The fact that dog 2 stops offering the paw is nothing new, this is simple extinction and the issue of attaching a label like jealousy or fairness to this phenomenon is a non-starter. Why give a complicated name to something that is already well understood? But the “puzzle” — or question — arises when the results of this study are compared to the results of what appears to be a completely similar study: If a dog like dog 2 has gone through Stage 1 and is then put into Stage 2 (extinction) without dog 1 sitting by the trainer’s side extinction takes place after y trials where y > x, i.e. it takes more trials without dog 1 present for the behavior to extinguish. So something is presumably different about having dog 1 in the environment when dog 2 is going through the extinction phase.
The first issue that needs to be confronted concerns what is being compared to what. Is there really a puzzle here. Lets call the dog who gets the “treatment” of dog 1, dog 2A, and the dog who is not subjected to “treatment” dog 1, dog 2B. I would want to know whether the reinforcement schedule during the training phase of both 2A and 2B was identical. If, for example, 2A’s training schedule included sporadic reinforcement while 2B’s did not (i.e. this dog was always rewarded during the training period), then there is no puzzle. Studies have shown that subjects take longer to extinguish if training included sporadic reinforcement, i.e. it is not dog 1 that is having the effect on dog 2A’s faster extinction but the difference in the reinforcement schedules. Consequently there is no need to consider issues like “jealousy” or “fairness.”
Lets assume, however, that everything is identical, AND, that multiple trials were done in both cases so that this is a real finding and not just a one time idiosyncratic observation. In this case the old extinction explanation is not adequate so we need a new “explanation.” The words “jealousy” and “fairness” are essentially short hand for new “theories” that might explain what the old extinction theory cannot explain. The difficulty with these labels, however, is that the theories they hide are not clear. Hence we have the question of whether there are really two theories or just one. So before we can assess their usefulness in this case we need to explicitly state each.
There are probably multiple interpretations for either “theory,” so lets just choose one for each.
Jealousy: One dog possesses something (e.g a bone) that a second dog desires. Given this theory we should observe dog 2A directing behavior towards the possessor, e.g. growling, barking, circling the possessor, that is designed to attempt to take the prize from the possessor. So if this theory is to be used to explain our observation we should see behavior directed at the possessor that is designed to give dog 2A possession. But the first problem we encounter is: who does dog 2A perceive to be possessing the rewards, the trainer who is offering them, or dog 1 who is receiving them? Second, is extinction behavior appropriate in either case? If the trainer is the target then the dog should be barking, growling circling the trainer. To argue that extinction behavior is directed at the trainer to gain possession of the treats requires assumptions about dog 2A “punishing” the trainer which we know from other evidence is too complicated for dogs. And it is impossible to see how extinction behavior would in any way result in dog 2A getting what dog 1 is receiving. So this theory does not explain the observed faster extinction behavior.
Fairness: This is a more complicated argument but lets try this: given identical circumstances the outcomes should be identical. Note the word “should” — this is a value, a belief, not a fact. So the first step in applying it to dog behavior is to ask whether dogs can have such beliefs. For the moment lets assume that dogs can have such beliefs. So dog 2A believes that since both he and dog 1 went through the same training, if the cue is given and both dog 1 and he, dog 2A, raise their paws and dog 1 gets a treat then he, dog 2A should also get a treat. Lets suspend judgment on whether a dog has the thinking capacity to go through this logic and ask instead what behavior we should see if all this were true. If an individual believes things should be fair and they are not what does the individual do, i.e. what behavior would we expect? Individuals who believe in fairness and believe that it is not occurring can exhibit various types of behavior. They can become angry and protest. They can also stop participating in the situation by boycotting it. Does extinguishing behavior fit either of these two behaviors? The observed extinction behavior is not consistent with the first but it might be consistent with the second. But is dog 2A boycotting? Perhaps. But if this is what is happening one would need to explain why boycotting is so powerful that extinction happens faster in dog 2A than dog 2B. This would suggest that dogs have a powerful set of moral principles. How likely is that? And if that is the case then we should be able to observe these morals in other forms of behavior. Do dogs attack hunters because they shoot and kill other animals?
1) As outlined above it would appear that the two theories of jealousy and fairness are not identical though they do share some common ingredients in what they predict, e.g. the barking, growling behavior predicted by jealousy could be the same as “protesting” in the fairness argument and boycotting might be similar to punishing. However the assumptions of each appear to be rather different as fairness contains some moral and belief ingredients. To be sure that the two theories are really different would require showing that there are predictions from one that do not follow from the other.
2) Does either theory explain the faster extinction rate in dog 2A than dog 2B? My answer: no.
This needn’t be shared with all, but, here’s my reasoning for thinking jealousy is more complicated than frustration.
I think that jealousy involves a recognition that someone else is getting something you want and being upset about it. Frustration, on the other hand,simply is the response to not getting what one wants. I’d say that frustration is much more an automatic response not unlike a pain response while jealousy seems to involve much more conceptual work on the part of the jealous being.
Babies get frustrated they don’t get jealous (or at least they don’t seem to) suggesting the jealousy involves more Jealousy involves a recognition of other, of what I want and of the other getting what I want. That’s a lot of conceptual work going on.
On the jealousy/fairness front. I’d say that they aren’t even the same sort of thing. Jealousy I’d say is an emotion while fairness is a concept. Fairness, it seems to me, involves a belief about what someone is owed and it seems really unlikely to me that dogs have beliefs about what they are owed. I’m not even sure humans do absent socialization. But if someone does have a concept of fairness and unfairness, the likely response to be treated unfairly is anger of some sort because you didn’t get what you deserved. Jealousy seems to be a response to someone else getting what you wanted while you didn’t. So, (a) jealousy emotion and fairness a concept and (b) jealousy doesn’t really seem a response to perceived unfairness, anger would be.
And now I’m way off the topic of dogs so I’ll go pay attention to mine. 🙂
Could someone explain how this blog works? How did my comment arrive in another place?
PS just finished the 4 dvds on For the Love of a Dog — FANTASTIC! What a great set of insights! I only wish that Tawzer would put bookmarks at certain junctures so that it would be possible to find special sections without fast forwarding and backwarding — its enough to drive you crazy. However, that set of lectures is priceless despite the lack of bookmarks.
Jennifer: I think your observation about the difference beteen jealousy and frustration is excellent — your example of babies really drives this home!
Also, it looks like your interpretation and distinction between jealousy and fairness is very close to mine.
Annette Baker says
We have two rescues. One is a large yorkie that is probably about 6-7 yrs old. We’ve had him since someone tossed him out of a car about 4 yrs ago. His buddy, Simba (a morkie) died of lymphoma Nov. 19. Several days later we adopted a shih tze from an Amish family. He goes nuts if we give them both a new toy. We’ve allowed him to choose. After she gets what he hasn’t chosen, then he wants her toy. He’s absolutely obesessed with getting hers. Once he does, then he wants whatever other toy she gets. (He was the same way with Simba only less so.) How do we break him of this obessive behavior? He “covets” anything she has.
Annette and Duke, Janesville, WI
Marc Bekoff is a cognitive ethologist – he studies how animals think and what they feel, including their emotions, beliefs, reasoning, information processing, consciousness and self awareness.
Following in the footsteps of Darwin,(“the evolutionist with a heart”) Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, and Karl Von Frisch who won the Nobel prize in physiology for their study of animal behavior, Marc explains in his book ‘The Emotional Lives of Animals’ how animals do have ethics and morals,and how and why they have evolved. Chimpanzees, for example will not participate in experiments they feel will fail. Rodents show empathy for each other and apply what they have learned after running through mazes on the next attempt. And fairness, noted several times in this book, is observed by dogs.
I applaud Marc’s defense of anthropomorphization as a means of observing animals, as well as his argument that animals are not automatons whose behavior can be evaluated only by their responses to “stimuli”.
His book, released in 2007 can be found easily in paperback on Amazon. I highly recommend it.
Fascinating comments. Dina, I especially admire your thoughtful and logical discussion about what would be required to support either jealousy or fairness. I do have some questions that your post brings up: I’m not sure I’m convinced that, under your comments about ‘jealousy,’ extinction here would suggest the dog is ‘punishing’ the trainer. Can you elaborate? Your question under ‘fairness’ about whether dogs have a set of moral principles is a good one. Here is one back: is a concept of equity or ‘fairness’ the same as making ‘moral’ judgments? There is some evidence, that some non-human animals perform as though they have some concept of ‘fairness’ in the sense of equity. (This is where I should give examples, but I’m away from my office that has that related books and articles. See Frans de Waal and his writing on chimpanzees for example.) (And please let me know if your comments appear where they shouldn’t again. That shouldn’t happen, but then, I’m a blog novice… til recently I always thought the word sounded like something that should be removed at a doctor’s office.)
I also agree that Jennifer’s distinctions about jealousy versus frustration are excellent. I love how these issues force us to be thoughtful about what words and concepts mean, and how we interpret behavior. Speaking of, I am sorry, but I can’t use the blog to answer behavioral problems about a specific dog. Annette might find some help in Jean Donaldson’s book “Mine” however.