January 17, 2011

Amy Chua's next project?

Nicholas Wade writes about Chaser, a border collie dog, whose owner, a retired psychology professor, taught her to remember proper names for 1,022 different items to fetch.
Border collies are working dogs. They have a reputation for smartness, and they are highly motivated. They are bred to herd sheep indefatigably all day long. Absent that task, they must be given something else to do or they go stir crazy.

Chaser proved to be a diligent student. Unlike human children, she seems to love her drills and tests and is always asking for more. “She still demands four to five hours a day,” Dr. Pilley said. “I’m 82, and I have to go to bed to get away from her.” ...

As with other animals for which prodigious feats of cognition have been reported, like Alex the gray parrot or Kanzi the bonobo, it is hard to place Chaser’s and Rico’s abilities in context. If their achievements are within the general capacity of their species, why have many other instances not been reported? If, on the other hand, their achievements are unique, then either the researchers have lucked out in finding an Einstein of the species, or there could be something wrong with the experiments like a Clever Hans effect.
Dr. Pilley said that most border collies, with special training, “could be pretty close to where Chaser is.” When he told Chaser’s dog breeder of the experiment, “he wasn’t surprised about the dog’s ability, just that I had had the patience to teach her,” Dr. Pilley said.

Dr. Horowitz agreed: “It is not necessarily Chaser or Rico who is exceptional; it is the attention that is lavished on them,” she said. 

Border collies are a handful if you don't own a flock of sheep to keep them busy.

39 comments:

Nanonymous said...

Border collies are the smartest breed. Most likely Chaser is dog Einstein. Interestingly enough, while most herding dogs are pretty smart, poodles are very high on breed intelligence scale. Speaking of breeds and PC: at some point I was amazed to discover that "anti-rasicts" vehemently oppose the idea that some dog breeds are more intelligent than others. Apparently, even this most obvious and, among dog trainers, non-controversial fact is threatening the dogma enough for lefties to deny it.

Anonymous said...

And remember, dog breeds differ by only a few genes (there is much less genetic variation among even wildly different phenotypes than there is among human beings). Those dogs within a breed differ by even fewer.

And yet - everyone knows that some dogs are born smarter than others - and the variation of that cognitive ability is large despite the profound genetic similarity. Not only do we know it - we mate pairs and buy expensive puppies precisely because we expect them to display those attributes.

It's because you can't hold the above information in your head at the same time denying human variation that Nanomysous' amazement exists. When evidence refutes your premise, dismiss the evidence.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting for the genomics people to compare dog breeds and try and to find genetic associations between learning and reasoning ability. It might give us some insights, perhaps that we could adapt to human models, without having to indulge in currently politically contentious studies. Although perhaps dogs are a poor model organism.

ironrailsironweights said...

Supposedly, border collies with no sheep to herd will resort to herding children.

Which may not be an entirely bad idea.

Peter

FF said...

In the journey towards exceptional smarts the breed has developed some unique health problems including lysosomal storage disease, what looks like their own version of Tay Sachs

Some sheep can be pretty cunning, and the thought occurred to me what if, instead of being bred for meat and wool production, sheep had been bred for intelligence as was the collie. It would have made for an intelligence arms race-a super smart dog the likes we have never seen, and much better fences for the sheep as well!

Anonymous said...

W/ todays 3-D imaging and statistical techniques comparisons of documented cognitive abilities and brain morphology of dogs. Would potentially yield wonderful insights.

Le Sigh said...

Nanonymous said

at some point I was amazed to discover that "anti-rasicts" vehemently oppose the idea that some dog breeds are more intelligent than others

Was the spelling error deliberate? It's hard to tell with you guys.

Anonymous said...

Chinese mothers are a handful if you don't have lots of kids to keep them busy.

Anonymous said...

The best dogs are border collies mixed with lab and or Golden retrievers.

Anonymous said...

My dad always said that yellow labrador retrievers were dumber than black ones. I don't know about the chocolate ones.

jody said...

steve sailer's next project:

in light of stanford's NCAA football success, are high academic standards really the problem at notre dame?

Anonymous said...

Chuahuahua and the collie.

Fred said...

What a great headline.

Pat Shuff said...

Astounding border collie video.

http://www.wimp.com/sheeplight/

dearieme said...

When the communist world opened up, a delegation from Outer Mongolia visited Britain. At the end of the visit one of the visitors was asked what was the most interesting thing he'd learnt. He replied that it was something he'd seen a little of in England, more in Wales and lots in Scotland.

It was shepherds using collies - he explained that it was unknown in OM, where sheepdogs were just guardians against wolf attacks.

Or so went a newspaper story of the time; does anyone know if there was any truth in the lack of western-style shepherds' dogs in Mongolia?

milam command said...

Non-bs question for dog experts: Are dogs "racist"--i.e. is there a tendency for dogs to associate more willingly with their own breed rather than with others?

Just wondering.

Collie said...

My parents have many pets, including a rescued border collie. He was, frankly, vicious and insane due to being kept locked up in a cage for most of the time over a period of years.

Now he's perfectly fine and shows to be incredibly intelligent. For example, he knows the name of everyone with regular contact with him including every other animal; if you want to get anybody's attention you simply tell him in normal English to go get the person and he will. This includes other pets too; he particularly enjoys herding cats (sorry libertarians, it can be done). Recently he has taken to looking after a new kitten -- he will not let it leave the garden area and will not leave it alone outside; nobody told him to do so.

This is the only dog I know where you can simply speak to him as you speak to another person. When another (stupider) dog pines to be let out, you simply say "let X out and shut the doors behind you" and he will duly identify the dog, herd it to a door, opens it, herds it to the other door, opens it, herds him out, waits for him to do his thing, herds him back into the house and then closes the doors behind him.

Nobody taught him how to open or close a door; he just figured out what was wanted and set about finding a way to do it. It's pretty amazing.

Anonymous said...

Non-bs question for dog experts: Are dogs "racist"--i.e. is there a tendency for dogs to associate more willingly with their own breed rather than with others?

They're definitely racist against humans.

In the postbellum/Jim Crow South, southerners prided themselves on having guard dogs which could sniff out negroes [and respond appropriately to the scent].

And nowadays, the greater Michael Vick crowd is breeding their pitbulls to hate white people.

Anonymous said...

what a very successful Attention-Trolljob by Ms. Chua


well done, Madam.

Anonymous said...

If Chaser makes a mistake while barking "antidisestablishmentarianism" in Morse code, Amy will burn all his squeaky toys and flush his puppy biscuits down the toilet.

Kylie said...

Le sigh said, "Was the spelling error deliberate? It's hard to tell with you guys."

That was lame, even for you. Lame and hypocritical. (But still creepy.)

I don't suppose you remember this:
"Sigh said...
What's the point of this post?

Models having their photos taken in exotic locations was around for most of the 20th Century, a natural off-shoot of the centuries-long tradition of portaiture[sic] art, which commonly painted in wide vistas behind the subject."


Example of Le creep's poor spelling and essential hypocrisy.

The spelling error is bad enough. The horribly clumsy sentence structure reveals you to be on an intellectual par with Michelle "Thank-you" Obama or Sonia "Wise Latina" Sotomayor.

It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

Anonymous said...

@ milam

"Are dogs "racist"--i.e. is there a tendency for dogs to associate more willingly with their own breed rather than with others? "

No. As a dog owner with pure breed dogs, I can tell you no.

We, human, control the breeding process to create `pure' breed. We did match making. Give them choice, they all like to be mud. That is why domesticated aminals are equal to `civilized' human. Marriage with free love is animal. Arranged marriage is civilized breeding.

Anonymous said...

http://www.petmedsonline.org/top-10-smartest-dogs-in-the-world.html

Border collie -- #1

Anonymous said...

Arranged marriage is civilized breeding? You should check out India one day.

Anonymous said...

"Are dogs "racist"--i.e. is there a tendency for dogs to associate more willingly with their own breed rather than with others? "

I'm sure dogs prefer other dogs of similar size -- they're easier to hump.

Allison said...

--in light of stanford's NCAA football success, are high academic standards really the problem at notre dame?

Notre Dame used to claim they make their athletes take their own tests.

Stanford doesn't make any claim like that at all, neither does Duke.

Allison said...

Border Collies will herd people when sheep aren't available. I know numerous stories of Border Collies herding toddlers on the playground, and even herding adults at picnics.

Anonymous said...

FF: 'Some sheep can be pretty cunning...'

These are the ones that call the others 'sheeple'.

Gilbert Pinfold.

restell said...

I was amazed to discover that "anti-racists" vehemently oppose the idea that some dog breeds are more intelligent than others.

The comparison between dog breeds and human ethnic groups would seem obvious. I've noticed that in French, they use the same word ("race") to describe both. ("race de chien" = "dog breed")

But they refer to "the human race" as "l'esp├Ęce humaine" (the human species). This greater clarity of language doesn't seem to have eased HBD discussion however; the PC atmosphere is even more suffocating in France than in the U.S.

Swarthy Anglo said...

Dr. Horowitz agreed: “It is not necessarily Chaser or Rico who is exceptional; it is the attention that is lavished on them,” she said.

Childless dog-owning SWPLs will be moved by this statement to call for the redistribution of educational resources to historically neglected and under-served chihuahuas and Dalmatians.

Anonymous said...

@Collie

Sounds like a control freak.

John McGill said...

I watched as my Uncle in Ireland told his dog to go get the sheep. Now, the sheep numbered 140, the day was pea soup foggy, and the sheep were scattered over a couple hundred acres of mountainside. Intermixed with all the neighbors' sheep. The dog did it in about 40 minutes. She is similar to the border collies you see here, but a little bigger. She wouldn't let anyone near her but my Uncle, not to feed her or anything. Imagine what a dog like that is worth to a sheep farmer. I still count it as one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.

Lucinda said...

Most nations with plains or steppes have two kinds of sheep dogs: a large, mastiff-type herd guardian and a small, agile herder. An example is Hungary, which has the Komondor, a large herd guardian dog, and the small, active Puli. They both have corded coats similar to dreadlocks. The Tibetan "terrier" is a small herder and the Tibetan Mastiff is a herd guardian.

Anonymous said...

OT

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/12/irony_is_good?page=full

"The same formulations are repeated year in and year out, unleavened by reflection or analysis, and the result is a kind of mental numbness: the ability to set two potentially related thoughts side by side, without ever connecting the two. Japan's World War II invasion and occupation of northern China is continually rehashed in the media, yet the blindingly obvious correlations to the Chinese presence in Xinjiang and Tibet are never drawn."

Jewish writer says Chinese lack a sense of irony--and presumably should be more like smart, ironic, iconoclastic Jews. But how is it that Jews, so full of satiric wisdom, don't see the irony of supporting Jewish nationalism in the Middle East while undermining American nationalism over here?
Jews may be ironic but they are, above all, intellectually and morally narcissistic.

Polistra said...

My parents, good egalitarian liberals, once bought a border collie without knowing the qualities of the breed. They never understood that his intensity was innate; always thought niceness and positive reinforcement would calm him down. Finally he got so disgusted that he ran away and never came back!

Anonymous said...

....I was amazed to discover that "anti-racists" vehemently oppose the idea that some dog breeds are more intelligent than others....

HERE someone calls discrimination against Pit Bulls "racial profiling" and "neo-Nazi." The insanity of the neocommies is off the leash...so to speak...

Ortu Kan said...

"Japan's World War II invasion and occupation of northern China is continually rehashed in the media, yet the blindingly obvious correlations to the Chinese presence in Xinjiang and Tibet are never drawn." -- Anonymous

Xinjiang (6% Han in 1949, 41.5% Han in 1976, and around that today -- though counting military personnel changes that rather notably, I think) attests to the truth of Comte's saying about demography, perhaps a little more starkly than Western jockeys of the immigration nag might care to admit.

Thankfully the Han are ill-suited on physiological grounds to similarly swamp Tibet (where they remain only around 3-4% of the population, although here -- as in Chinese Turkestan, actually -- there is the suspicion of doctored numbers).

Anonymous said...

My brother came to visit me for two weeks. Brought his border collie with him. Never had any experience with them. First thing I noticed was the dog would constantly walk from one end of the house to the other. I'd be trying to watch TV, and the dog would constantly be walking past me. At first, I'd order her to lie down in front of me, and she would for a few minutes, then get up and go back to endlessly patroling the house. I finally decided that was the way of a housed border collie and learned to ignore it.
I also noticed she would throw herself into doing whatever you ordered her to do. Once I was throwing a ball for her to chase, and told her to stop in mid run, and come back to me, and she would always do so. I'd never seen a dog stop midchase with a ball, and sprint back to me simply by my calling her name.
It's very rude to say, but I concluded that border collies are essentially Steppin' Fetchit on crack.
Finally, you do NOT want to get one unless you have plenty for it to do every day, or the dog will drive you nuts.
The dog needs things to do, and requires you to give them their itinerary on a daily basis, or they're like an engine in neutral, running at redline.
Eventually they'll begin to self-destruct.
I wound up feeling kind of sorry for my brother's dog. I thought, "Here's a dog that is as about as good as having a slave, and is damned happy to be one."

Anonymous said...

Two years ago, there were a few stories about wild dogs in Moscow that used the subway in a practiced fashion that suggested they knew exactly what they were doing. One in particular would board a certain train at the same time in the morning, going to a preferred place to forage, and return in early evening. More impressive or less impressive than the border collie's feat? Not sure.