Categorization has been tested in non-human animals after extensive training procedures under laboratory conditions and it is assumed that in non-primate species categorization relies on perceptual similarity. We report evidence of the ability to categorize objects in absence of specific training in a family dog with vocabulary knowledge of multiple toys, including exemplars of 4 categories. Our experimental design was devised to test categorization in absence of specific training and based on the spontaneously learned vocal labels of the categories, a condition that mirrors human studies more than previous experiments on non-human animals. We also observed that the dog’s categorization skills were more accurate when, prior to the categorization test, she was given the opportunity to play with the novel exemplars, suggesting that category representations arise not only from physical resemblance, but also from objects’ affordances (function).
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