Domestication drives changes in animal cognition and behaviour. In particular, the capacity of dogs to socially learn from humans is considered a key outcome of how domestication shaped the canid brain. However, systematic evidence for social learning from humans in other domestic species is lacking and makes general conclusions about how domestication has affected cognitive abilities difficult. We assessed spatial and social problem-solving abilities in goats (Capra hircus) using a detour task, in which food was placed behind an inward or outward V-shaped hurdle. Goats performed better in the outward than in the inward detour without human demonstration. Importantly, a single presentation by a human solving the inward detour resulted in goats solving the task faster compared to the inward detour without demonstration. Furthermore, 8/9 subjects that received a demonstration used the same route as the demonstrator in the subsequent trial. Thus, goats learn socially from humans. This provides strong evidence for social learning from humans in a domestic species other than dogs.
Goats Learn Socially from Humans in a Spatial Problem-Solving TaskSocial Cognition
Citation InformationNawroth, C., Baciadonna, L., & McElligott, A. G. (2016). Goats learn socially from humans in a spatial problem-solving task. Animal Behaviour, 121, 123-129.