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Dogs Automatically Imitate People

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By Jennifer Viegas For Discovery.com

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, dogs often shower us with praise. New research has just determined dogs automatically imitate us, even when it is not in their best interest to do so.

The study, published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B, provides the first evidence that dogs copy at least some of our body movements and behaviors in ways that are spontaneous and voluntary.

In other words, they can’t really help themselves when it comes to copying people.

“This suggests that, like humans, dogs are subject to ‘automatic imitation;’ they cannot inhibit online, the tendency to imitate head use and/or paw use,” lead author Friederike Range and her colleagues conclude.

It’s long been known that humans do this, even when the tendency to copy interferes with efficiency.

“For example,” according to the researchers, “if people are instructed to open their mouths as soon as they see the letters ‘OM’ appear on a screen, responses are slower when the letters are accompanied by an image of an opening hand than when they are accompanied by an image of an opening mouth.”

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