It occurred to researchers that dogs trained in the “Do-As-I-Do” obedience method presented the opportunity to test whether or not a dog is endowed with episodic memory.
Episodic memory is the memory of autobiographical events (times, places, associated emotions, and other contextual who, what, when, where, why knowledge) that can be explicitly stated. It is the collection of past personal experiences that occurred at a particular time and place. For example, if one remembers the party on his or her 6th birthday, this is an episodic memory. They allow an individual to figuratively travel back in time to remember the event that took place at that particular time and place.
In other words, the mind constructs a story of what happened, a who-did-what-to-who-where-and-when, detail rich narrative.
As I understand the “Do-As-I-Do” training method, dogs are lured and conditioned with food to mirror human movements until at some point the action takes on a life of its own. Thus in the experiment, while the dog is preoccupied with a task at hand, the owner drifts away and performs an incidental movement to which the dog is not expected to respond but has been positioned to notice. If later an owner were to prompt the dog to perform a mirroring move in that same place but without giving him anything to mirror, the question becomes did the dog capture this earlier incidental movement as a sub-detail of what was going on around him, which the dog’s behavior could then reveal by being able to mirror that specific action the owner did earlier. It is asserted that this demonstrates that dogs are endowed with episodic memory as are humans.
What is the Do-As-I-Do method? When I first heard about it a decade or so ago I thought it must be tapping into the deep mirroring mechanism at the heart of animal behavior and I was intrigued. But I was surprised to find that it begins with food training. In a way it’s just another trick a dog performs, like giving paw, not that this means it can’t serve the researchers’ purposes for this particular experiment. But it bears scrutiny because mirroring isn’t about the act of imitating others out of an understanding of the act of imitation, which is how a narrative-driven mind records the experience as in “You moved your left arm so I’m going to move my left arm.” A mind capable of a narrative driven episodic memory would also have to be aware of the concept of imitation. The absence of this in dogs is why I prefer the term mirroring over imitating and this is also why the “Do” method relies on food rewards to get the ball rolling. If a dog had a narrative driven mind, one wouldn’t need food rewards. A child understands the act of imitation as a concept and can perform it for no reward, annoyingly for many parents driving with kids in the back seat.
One can train a dog to give paw on command and this behavior can also take on a life of its own. And were we then we to prompt such a dog in another context he will volunteer the give paw behavior in response. The dog is being triggered by specific signals the owner is giving and so these summon up from the dog’s past a relevant physical memory of how it moved relative to its owner in a similar state of orientation and intensity. (These energetic parameters have been mistakenly attributed to context.) Whatever “state-of-conductivity” (i.e. how mechanically and qualitatively a dog moved relative to an Object-of-Resistance) has primacy in the body’s physical record of movement the dog will feel and then can recapitulate this at a Forward Point in Time. Yet science doesn’t treat this as episodic memory.
We might also note that if there is an episodic memory capacity in dogs, then changing location shouldn’t have much bearing on a dog’s power of recall. A tourist can return to their home country and recount every detail of a trip to a Italy. Their memory doesn’t fade according to where they find themselves. That said, their physical memories which the human animal holds in common with all other animals, will need to be triggered by being in Italy (or by the taste of olive oil). But if a dog is endowed with episodic memory he should be able to move from one spot to another one without a loss of recall and yet as every dog trainer knows when a dog changes location, this changes the class of triggers, some may be altogether absent and thus the specific memory is not trigger-able. Furthermore, because the dog is actually reliving the memory as opposed to recalling it we see that he HAS to replicate it faithfully, with place being one of the most salient variables so when he’s not in that place the capacity to recall falls off precipitously. This is why training a dog to generalize heel, sit, down, stay from one place to another is such an important component of any training protocol. The dog isn’t learning any of these as a concept, such as one learns the dining etiquette of dinner-fork-always-on-left-side-of-plate, a poly-locale concept that transfers readily from one restaurant or banquet hall to another. Instead a dog learns obedience behaviors through a flow-of-force template, one which works through principles of energy rather than reason. Physical memory is recorded and recalled according to these same principles of energy as well, not an episodic narrative driven remembrance. (The one exception to the above is that if a dog is trained to exhibit 100% of its drive toward an O-R held in common with its owner, then the obedience memories are readily transferable to all locations. But this is not due to conceptualizing about the action but due to Drive, the existence of which modern learning theory doesn’t acknowledge.)
Again however these distinctions have no bearing on the particulars and findings of this experiment, ONLY ON ITS INTERPRETATION. My point being that in a dog’s mind it’s not a concept of doing as another does out of an understanding of the act of imitation, mirroring speaks to a deeper dynamic, one that determines the nature of animal memory as well. Giving paw, barking, heeling, coming-when-called are variants of the mirroring phenomenon, i.e. physically aligning and synchronizing with the flow of energy (emotion), with the trainer/owner having established this current. (The quantity and quality of the mechanical energy of the body moving in concordance with the energetic principles of emotional conductivity that determine the nature of the memory.) So indeed there is something fundamental going on whenever a dog performs a behavior or learns a lesson and I’m proposing we identify this fundamental rather than reflexively dumping it into the narrative, high cognition theory-of-mind interpretation as is being done here by rushing to install episodic memory in the mind of a dog. Note that the experiment is set up to look for episodic memory, it is not neutrally examining the nature of a dog’s capacity of memory. So the researchers are finding what they are looking for because they are already looking at the question through a predetermined filter.
One of the key variables in the flow-of-force template is not only the location of the individual, but the placement of all salient objects of resistance to the flow-of-force in that given frame of reference, most importantly, that O-R that defines the main flow channel. This is a primordial template that governs the animal mind and so for example I have no doubt that every domestic and wild animal on my farm and in the nearby woods, even the jays, ravens and crows overhead, are tracking my every movement given my status as the most intense predatory aspect moving about and they thus record my presence as a salient characteristic of wherever else they may be experiencing in any given moment. When I’m wearing my bait pouch, the jays start trilling and once a furiously groaking-and-gronking raven led me and a dog I was with to a carcass, my arrival I believe succeeding in driving the far more numerous crows away.
One ramification to a mistaken interpretation is made by Dr. Bekoff in his Psychology Today column linked below; that if a dog is endowed with an episodic memory therefore he can’t be said to live wholly in the present moment. So truth in advertising I have my favorite dog “Imma” (Immediate-Moment Manner of Analysis) in this fight.
I don’t understand how memory and an immediate-moment state of mind are mutually exclusive, as well as the corollary discussed above that memory must be encoded according to a narrative style of events. My counter-statement to “dogs remember more than we think” is that a dog never forgets anything. It’s just that it can’t remember of its own volition, physical memory needs to be triggered. And unlike mentally thinking about a memory, the body reliving a physical memory is never mistaken. The past is relived all over again, in the moment. This is why after all PTSD afflicts traumatized people. The problem isn’t that the victim is recalling a bad experience and thinking about it, the problem is they are reliving it. They are in the moment, they’re just not in the moment that includes their present set of circumstances.
The reason dogs are very good at mirroring, and the reason food is used in training dogs, is that food lowers the dog’s already low threshold for “emotional projection.” Emotional projection is the basis of animal behavior, most especially complex, affiliative behavior.
Emotional projection is the projection of a feeling for one’s center-of-gravity into the form of an emotionally relevant object. What is an emotionally relevant object? Anything that can challenge one’s sense of balance thus motivating the individual to move. (O-R) And when an animal moves, it must first project a feeling for where it’s center-of-gravity is going to be in order to successfully compute for the next foot fall, or for a sequence of foot falls, or most importantly, for a complex series of maneuvers when interacting with others. In other words, the Object-of-Resistance becomes invested with a Forward Point that the subject MUST occupy with its own body in order to restore a feeling of Well-Being, an emotional state of Well-Being being The Point of everything an animal does and toward which every cell, organ and system in his body and mind evolved to maintain and/or optimize. Likewise, the memory of an animal is recorded by virtue of a subliminal tracking of the body’s center-of-gravity in relation to emotionally relevant objects in the surroundings so as to maintain and/or optimize a state of emotional Well-Being.
And when the feeling of the physical center-of-gravity is projected, an entire life history of movements relative to that class of relevant object goes along for the ride as well. Emotional projection is what makes mirroring behavior possible. The animal feels that an emotionally relevant object, especially one with whom one has acquired an emotional bond (such as an owner) is an emotional ballast, a counterbalance essential to its sense of emotional well-being, the ground literally shifting beneath its feet as its owner moves about. (In other words, everything a dog does is a mirroring of its owner.) The idea of physical memory as a mass, a burden, but more importantly in regards to its network function, an emotional counterweight, means that there will be an inherent drive to mirror (misinterpreted as an act of imitation) IN ORDER TO CONNECT and thereby reacquire a state of emotional Well-Being. In this way, behavior evolves to be more complex and affiliative so that MORE WORK CAN GET DONE, i.e. evolution happens.
Since behavior means movement, and since movement means a transfer of force, emotional projection induces dogs to “mark” any significant transfers of force within their perceptual field even if they don’t immediately deal with them. (The point of my YDIYM book is that dogs are likewise noting significant transfers-of-force recorded in their owners’ emotional memory banks and then post-hoc acting on these if their owner fails to do so.) The marking capacity of dogs given their remarkably low threshold for emotional projection (i.e. they can project into anything) has been exploited for millennia by the huntsman. In the world of sporting dogs marking where a number of birds fall are important components to a dog working under a gun. This capacity of emotional projection and the capacity of physical memory to track and record the movement of emotionally relevant objects involving significant transfers of force/energy has been a mainstay of dog and man working together in the hunt for centuries. It’s how wolves have hunted collectively for eons. It has nothing to do with episodic memory.
To sum up, while this is a very clever and interesting experiment, the interpretation unfortunately is human story telling which obscures what’s really going on. Emotional projection and marking transfers of force is the basis of the animal mind so that when entrained one individual feels as if another individual’s body is an extension of its own and all significant transfers of force are marked and retrievable at a later date. In Nature, and in the nature of animal consciousness, the point of affiliative behavior isn’t sociability and companionship as wonderful as these derivatives are of the true organizing dynamic. Nature “knows” that in order to get its work of evolution done, two bodies are better than one.
Post Note: Alexandra Horowitz, canine cognition researcher, has reintroduced the notion of “Umwelt” (the world view of other beings endowed with differing sensorium) into the discussion on dogs. The philosopher Nagal says this is an impossible endeavor. However Panksepp reveals that all animals are endowed with the same emotional systems and so there is a universal emotional Umwelt that may not represent an unassailable height given that there is a human animal within us all. We should be able to make a model based on what we share with animals. Since these emotional systems Panksepp outlines are preverbal, they are therefore not Time-centric. Meanwhile Einstein speaks of Space/Time as a continuum rather than as one being distinct from the other. He demonstrated that anything that can be said of Space can also be said of Time and vice versa. The animal body as well as the animal mind, has surely evolved in concordance with Space/Time rather than Time as a concept concocted by the human intellect, an arbitrary distinction that renders our human minds as being Time-centric. Rectifying this illusion took the combined genius of many thinkers through several millennia to lead us to the Einsteinium breakthrough.
My proposal is to approach the problem of the canine Umwelt through the perspective of a Space-centric mind, one which is available to us all via the human animal (i.e. emotion).
To understand “being in the moment” it will prove more productive to turn to physics and its definition of a moment-of-momentum. (Note the word moment is contain in momentum) A moment of emotional momentum defines a cycle of emotion so that a state of arousal applied to an O-R is returned as positive feedback so that the original state of arousal meets with complete exhaustion by running to term. An emotional cycle determines a dog’s state of calmness relative to what’s going on around him. If a dog feels things aren’t moving fast enough, that the feedback which is returning to it is not increasing a feeling of conductivity, then it becomes nervous/anxious/fearful. It will “leak” or “burst” with excessive vocal or physical vibrations, otherwise known as annoying or problem behaviors. Yet in that same set of circumstances a dog with a strong imprint of careful Drive cultivation, will feel things are moving just fine even though things are static and nothing seems in that moment to be improving. Like Einstein said, Time is relative.
Therefore since emotional projection is projecting a feeling for a Point in the Body Forward in Space, the e-cog, it is simultaneously projecting the Mind forward in Time. Thermodynamically and Relativistically, a Forward Point is a Forward Point. Every point forward in Space is forward in Time from another’s point of view, and vice versa. Physical memory as the embodied record of how the p-cog and all emotionally relevant objects invested with the projected e-cog, the feeling for where the p-cog is Going To Be — in a given frame of reference moved through Space, is simultaneously a movement through Time as well. This equivalence is why the dog’s behavior is coherent to our human Time-centric mind and yet remains a Space-centric mind revealed by such fundamental differences as discussed above. A Space-centric perspective can only be divined through an Immediate-Moment-Manner-of-Analysis. And we all have one, we all have an inner dog “Imma.”
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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin BehanIn Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
|Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.|