Researchers at Yale University, led by Psychology Professor Laurie Santos, have opened a new canine cognition center to learn about how dogs think. But there's a twist: the dogs are all volunteer participants who "enroll" in the lab, receiving a letter of admission and ultimately a diploma!
Yale's Canine Cognition Lab is a brilliant way to gain study participants; what pet owner doesn't want to watch their beloved dog solve puzzles and show off their smarts? Better yet, it saves money -- no need to house dogs on-site -- and it avoids thorny animal welfare issues brought about by keeping animals in labs for scientific research.
What will be the next innovative method of animal cognition research? Some scientists are discussing mobile "labs" that can test cognition (on a volunteer basis!) for animals in wild populations. Imagine this: a curious wild crow notices a strange box in its environment, flies down, fiddles with some buttons, and out pops a small reward. The crow is happy, and the researcher-- whose remote video cameras captured the entire trial-- is happy too, with a new wealth of data to analyze!
"These are critters who live in our houses, they grow up with us, we're constantly wondering what they're thinking about, how they make sense of things. This is a real scientific way we can answer those questions," said psychology Professor Laurie Santos of Yale University. Yale undergrad and graduate students working at the dog lab, are hoping to learn more about canine psychology through various problem solving games they give to the pooches.