Friday, May 24, 2013

Chaser - Border Collie

Pilley JW. Border collie comprehends sentences containing a prepositional object, verb, and direct object. Learning and Motivation. 

his study tested the ability of a Border Collie, Chaser, to learn the syntax and semantics of sentences consisting of three elements of grammar, a prepositional object, verb, and direct object. Understanding of the syntax of the sentences required that Chaser emit responses consistent with three elements of grammar sentences, such as to ball take Frisbee. Understanding of the semantics of the sentences required that Chaser respond correctly when the meanings of the sentences were changed by reversing positions of the prepositional object and the direct object in the sentence, such as to Frisbee take ball. Chaser's understanding of the sentences was tested in three different scenarios: (a) when multiple and familiar objects were used in the syntax command sentence, (b) when novel objects were used in the syntax command sentence (novel in the sense that objects had not been used during training), and (c) when vision of objects was not possible at the time the syntax command was verbalized. Findings were statistically significant in all three scenarios. Successful findings were attributed to Chaser's intensive training in her first three years of life. Analysis of the data revealed that Chaser's successful understanding of the syntax sentences required the processing and retention of two sound-object mappings (names-objects) into memory, along with simultaneous judgments concerning which object to take to the other – that is, working memory. These two types of cognitive abilities, memory storage and working memory, raise the bar in terms of our expectations of a dog's potential ability to understand verbal communications. We propose that Chaser's understanding of our three elements of grammar sentences represents a giant leap in her referential understanding of language.