Dogs and wolves share a key sense of fair play

❝ The sense of fair play is an important human trait, but new research suggests that it’s a key behaviour for dogs and wolves as well.

In tests, if one animal was given a more substantial reward when performing a task, the other one downed tools completely.

❝ It had been felt that this aversion to unfairness was something that dogs had learned from humans.

But the tests with wolves suggest that this predates domestication of dogs.

❝ Scientists have long recognised that what they term a “sensitivity to inequity”, or a sense of fairness, played an important role in the evolution of co-operation between humans. Basically, if others treated you badly, you quickly learned to stop working with them.

Researchers believe that the behaviour is also found widely in non-human primates.

❝ Experiments in 2008 demonstrated that dogs also had this sensitivity. This new study shows that it’s also deeply ingrained in wolves.

The fact that the behaviour was found in both wolves and dogs helps to overturn the idea that dogs learned this concept because they were domesticated.

I’m not being political for the sake of ideology; but, I have to wonder what this says about our own species. Certainly here in the United States and in other nations where the phenomenon of populism is once again on the rise.

A pair of distinctive dialectical features of populism are fear and hatred of those who are somehow different from what “natives” consider normal. My only personal experience with this cultural hangup was working in the Deep South in the late 1960’s. I survived in the workplace by turning it into a joke. Literally placing a sign at the entrance to my department that said – DANGER…North American Wild Yankee…Do Not Feed. Pretty much everyone got the joke and usually tried to understand our social and political differences.

Still, the Confederacy hasn’t changed much. Political struggle has taken much power away from racists. Democracy has made inroads. But, the populist myths of fear and hatred persist and have taken significant control in today’s Republican Party. Shoving most traditional conservatives to the side in a quest for brute power.

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