Oxytocin induces positive expectations about ambivalent stimuli (cognitive bias) in dogs

Anna Kis, Anna Hernádi, Orsolya Kanizsár, Márta Gácsi, József Topál

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Citations (Scopus)


Expectancy bias towards positive outcomes is a potential key to subjective well-being, and has been widely investigated in different species. Here we test whether oxytocin, suggested to play a role in human optimism and emotional processing, influences how dogs judge ambivalent situations (in a cognitive bias paradigm). Subjects first learned in a location discrimination task that a bowl either contained food (at the 'positive' location) or was empty (at the 'negative' location). Then, after receiving oxytocin or placebo nasal spray, they were presented with the bowl located halfway between the positive and negative positions in communicative or non-communicative contexts ( N= 4. ×. 16). A Positive Expectancy Score was calculated for each subject using the latency to approach this ambivalent location. Compared to placebo groups, subjects that received oxytocin pretreatment showed a positive expectation bias in both contexts, and this effect was more pronounced in the communicative context. Our study provides the first evidence for the impact of oxytocin on dogs' judgement bias and also shows that the social-communicative nature of the task situation modulates the effect of oxytocin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalHormones and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Canis familiaris
  • Dog
  • Expectation bias
  • Oxytocin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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