Chapter 3 The Dog as a Model for Understanding Human Social Behavior

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89 Citations (Scopus)


The traditional approach for studying the evolutionary emergence of human social cognition is based on comparisons with apes and monkeys as model species with a homologous relationship to other primates and humans. Recently, however, research interest has focused on other species offering analogous models for the evolution of human social cognitive abilities. Here we suggest that convergent social evolution in dogs can be used to model the early state of human social evolution, suggesting that functionally analogous forms of many traits of the human behavioral complex are present in dogs. We argue that the dog as a model species is unique among domesticated species because (a) many aspects of dog behavior are functionally analogous to the corresponding human traits, (b) socialization to humans is a natural process in dogs, (c) comparison with the ancestor is important for convergent modeling, and (d) the dog represents a natural experimental model for studying human behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in the Study of Behavior
EditorsJane Brockmann, Timothy Roper, Marc Naguib, Katherine Wynne-Edwards, John Mitani, Leigh Simmons
Number of pages46
Publication statusPublished - Jul 29 2009

Publication series

NameAdvances in the Study of Behavior
ISSN (Print)0065-3454


  • Behavioral convergence
  • Dog
  • Domestication
  • Evolution
  • Human behavior complex
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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    Topál, J., Miklósi, Á., Gácsi, M., Dóka, A., Pongrácz, P., Kubinyi, E., Virányi, Z., & Csányi, V. (2009). Chapter 3 The Dog as a Model for Understanding Human Social Behavior. In J. Brockmann, T. Roper, M. Naguib, K. Wynne-Edwards, J. Mitani, & L. Simmons (Eds.), Advances in the Study of Behavior (pp. 71-116). (Advances in the Study of Behavior; Vol. 39).