Understanding the Proximate Mechanisms of Canine Cooperation (CanCoop)
Term: March 2013 - February 2018
Project leader: Univ.Ass. Dr. Friederike Range
Project collaborators: Dr. Sarah Marshall, Rachel Dale, MSc, Jennifer Essler, MSc
funded by European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) / ERC Grant Agreement n. 
Human societies largely depend on cooperation, which is vital for activities ranging from raising children to international trade practices. Although it is clear that human collaborative skills are exceptional, animals are also known to collaborate with one another. Elucidating similarities and differences in the cognitive and emotional processes underlying cooperative interactions in non-primate and primate taxa may have profound implications for our understanding of cooperation in humans and non-human-animals. The hope is to increase our understanding of 1) socio-cognitive skills as adaptations to specific environments and/or 2) the evolutionary background and origin of our own skills.
Wolves and dogs are closely related and thus represent the ideal non-primate model to implement this approach, as cooperation is at the core of their social organization and they are adapted to two very different environments. Accordingly, the project‘s main objective is to create a multilevel understanding of the inter- and intra-species cooperative potential in canine-canine and canine-human interactions. This will be accomplished by integrating for the first time evolutionary, cognitive and emotional approaches in a comprehensive framework, supported by national and international collaborations using a novel model system.
The project will include a series of experiments with wolves and dogs that have been raised and kept identically. The work will focus on cognitive processes closely linked to the emotional system, such as empathy, inequity aversion and delayed gratification. These processes are thought to be involved in triggering, maintaining and regulating primate cooperation. Using social network theory, we will integrate knowledge of animals’ emotional tendencies as well as of their cognitive abilities to model canine cooperation and to test the model’s predictions with our own data.
Marshall-Pescini S, Virányi Z, Kubinyi E and Range F (2017) Motivational Factors Underlying Problem Solving: Comparing Wolf and Dog Puppies’ Explorative and Neophobic Behaviors at 5, 6, and 8 Weeks of Age. Front. Psychol. 8:180. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00180 Link [Link 3]
Marshall-Pescini S, Besserdich I, Kratz C and Range F (2016) Exploring Differences in Dogs’ and Wolves’ Preference for Risk in a Foraging Task. Front. Psychol. 7:1241. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.0124 Link [Link 4]
Werhahn, G., Virányi, Z., Barrera, G., Sommese, A., & Range, F. (2016, May 30). Wolves (Canis lupus) and Dogs (Canis familiaris) Differ in Following Human Gaze Into Distant Space But Respond Similar to Their Packmates’ Gaze. Journal of Comparative Psychology. Advance online publication. Link [Link 5]
Marshall-Pescini, S; Dale, R; Quervel-Chaumette, M; Range, F (2016): Critical issues in experimental studies of prosociality in non-human species. Anim Cogn. 2016; Link [Link 6]
Essler, JL; Cafazzo, S; Marshall-Pescini, S; Virányi, Z; Kotrschal, K; Range, F (2016): Play Behavior in Wolves: Using the "50:50" Rule to Test for Egalitarian Play Styles. PLoS One. 2016; 11(5):e0154150 Link [Link 7]
Quervel-Chaumette, M. et al. Familiarity affects other-regarding preferences in pet dogs. Sci. Rep. 5, 18102; doi: 10.1038/srep18102 (2015). http://www.nature.com/articles/srep18102 [Link 8]
Marshall-Pescini, S./ Virányi, Z./ Range, F.(2015): The effect of domestication on inhibitory control: wolves and dogs compared. Plos One. 2015; 10(2):e0118469 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0118469 [Link 9]
Range, F./ Virányi, Z. (2015): Tracking the evolutionary origins of dog-human cooperation: the “Canine Cooperation Hypothesis”. Front.Psychol. 5:1582. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01582 http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01582/abstract [Link 10]
Range, F./Jenikejew, J./Schröder, I./Virányi, Z. (2014): Difference in quantity discrimination in dogs and wolves. Front.Psychol. 5:1299. doi:10.3389/fpsyg. 2014.01299 http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01299/abstract [Link 11]
Range, F./Virányi, Z. (2014): Wolves are better imitators of conspecifics than dogs. PLoS ONE, 9, e86559. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0086559 [Link 12]
Maclean, E. L./Hare, B./Nunn, C. L./Addessi, E./Amici, F./Anderson, R. C./Aureli, F./Baker, J. M./Bania, A. E./Barnard, A. M./Boogert, N. J./Brannon, E. M./Bray, E. E./Bray, J./Brent, L. J. N./Burkart, J. M./Call, J./Cantlon, J. F./Cheke, J./Clayton, N. S./Delgado, L. J./Divincenti, M. M./Fujita, K./Herrmann, E./Hiramatsu, C./Jacobs, L. F./Jordan, K. E./Laude, J. R./Leimgruber, K. L./Messer, E. J. E./Moura, A. C. D. A./Ostojić, L./Picard, A./Platt, M. L./Plotnik, J. M./Range, F./Reader, S. M./Reddy, R. B./Sandel, A. A./Santos, L. R./Schumann, K./Seed, A. M./Sewall, K. B./Shaw, R. C./Slocombe, K. E./Su, Y./Takimoto, A./Tan, J./Tao, R./Schaik, C. P. V./Virányi, Z./Visalberghi, E./Wade, J. C./Watanabe, A./Widness, J./Young, J./Zentall, T. R./Zhao, Y. (2014): The Evolution of self-control. PNAS 111/20, E2140-E2148; DOI10.1073/pnas.1323533111 http://www.pnas.org/content/111/20/E2140.full.pdf [Link 13]
Mazzini, F./Townsend, S.W./Virányi, Z./Range, F. (2013): Wolf howling is mediated by relationship quality rather than underlying emotional stress. Curr Biol (23), 17 1677-1680. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982213008233 [Link 14]
Range, F./Virányi, Z. (2013): Social learning from humans or conspecifics: differences and similarities between wolves and dogs. Front Psychol. 2013; 4:868. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3849518/ [Link 15]
Wolf Science Center [Link 16]