Monthly Archives: September 2014

Can dogs appreciate a magic trick?

Edward Norton performs

Edward Norton performs

The question arises in a recent blog posting by Susana Martinez-Conde at the Scientific American site,

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/illusion-chasers/2014/09/11/dog-magic/

Despite the title’s emphasis on dogs and an accompanying picture, the piece is really about the appreciation of stage magic by human children, human adults, other great apes, and yes, something about dogs, too.

The blogger links to a short video featuring a magician and dogs. In the video, the magician makes dog treats appear and disappear in front of the dogs’ faces. The blogger braves accusations of unwarranted anthropomorphization to write that “the dogs’ reactions seems to indicate that they fall somewhere along the confused-to-angry continuum.” That makes sense. What the video shows is called teasing. Confusion and anger are predictable and arguably appropriate responses to teasing, in many species.

The issue Martinez-Conde raised, however, was whether dogs might react with a wonderment like that which adult humans experience when viewing a well-staged magic trick. So, might they?

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