Most mornings, I walk our dog, Theo around the park near our house and throw him a tennis ball with one of those ball thrower thing-a-ma-jigs.
In the evening, I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, What the Dog Saw, which is a series of essays he wrote for The New Yorker over the past 10 years. In light of my dog walking habit, I was interested to read this on page 134:
The anthropologist Brian Hare has done experiments with dogs, for example, where he puts a piece of food under one of two cups, placed several feet apart. The dog knows that there is food to be had, but has no idea which of the cups holds the prize. Then Hare points at the right cup, taps on it, looks directly at it. What happens? The dog goes to the right cup virtually every time. Yet when Hare did the same experiment with chimpanzees—an animal that shares 98.6 per cent of our genes—the chimps couldn’t get it right. A dog will look at you for help, and a chimp won’t.
Even though a chimp is much smarter than a dog, on this task, the dog wins every time because the dog is willing to look for help. Dogs will look to humans for directions.
So true! On the rare occasions when Theo loses track of the ball, I can point to the location of the ball and he will follow my instructions to find the ball – even if the ball is 40 yards away.
We humans can also function in these two ways when faced with a problem. Those who look for instructions from others and those who fumble along by themselves.
1. Recognize they need help
2. Use the wisdom of others
3. Follow directions
1. Don’t or won’t see their need
2. Rely upon their own limited smarts to get along
3. Don’t follow directions because they never get any from others
Dog people and chimp people. What kind of person are you? What kind of person do you what to be?
For me – I’ll think I’ll be following Theo this time.