Psychology, Interamerican
Reversal learning with and without human social cues: effects of scent detection training
Creative Commons
PDF (Español (España))


aprendizaje de reversión; entrenamiento; perros de detección; claves sociales humanas.

How to Cite

Carballo, F., Amezague, L., Marin, R., & Bentosela, M. (2022). Reversal learning with and without human social cues: effects of scent detection training. Revista Interamericana De Psicología/Interamerican Journal of Psychology, 56(3), e1666.


Reversal learning requires the subjects to inhibit a preponderant response towards a previously reinforced stimulus and change their behavior according to a new stimulus-reward contingency. This paradigm allows for the assessment of behavioral flexibility and inhibitory control, both crucial abilities for highly trained dogs, such as detection dogs. The aim of this study was to determine whether detection training modulates reversal learning with and without human social cues. Thus, detection dogs were compared with untrained pet dogs in a spatial reversal learning task, first using just a spatial cue (right-left, non-social task) and then adding a social cue (position of the experimenter, social task). However, results indicate that there were no differences between the groups in either task. This could be related to the particular characteristics of detection dog training. In addition, overall performance was better in the social task during the initial discrimination, but the inverse pattern was observed during the reversal phase. These differences highlight the importance of human social cues during training.
PDF (Español (España))


Anderson, B. A., Laurent, P. A., y Yantis, S. (2013). Reward predictions bias attentional selection. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 262.

Awh, E., Belopolsky, A. V., y Theeuwes, J. (2012). Top-down versus bottom-up attentional control: a failed theoretical dichotomy. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16, 437–443.

Barrera, G., Alterisio, A., Scandurra, A., Bentosela, M., y D’Aniello, B. (2018). Training improves inhibitory control in water rescue dogs. Animal Cognition, 22(1), 127–131.

Barrera, G., Mustaca, A. y Bentosela, M. (2011). Gaze at the human face in shelter and pet dogs. Animal Cognition, 14, 727-734.

Barrera, G., Jakovcevic, A., Elgier, A. M., Mustaca, A., y Bentosela, M. (2010). Responses of shelter and pet dogs to an unknown human. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 5(6), 339-344.

Blough, D. S. (2004). Reaction time signatures of discriminative processes: Differential effects of stimulus similarity and incentive. Animal Learning & Behavior, 32(2), 157-172.

Bolló, H., Kiss, O., Kis, A., y Topál, J. (2021). The implicit reward value of the owner's face for dogs. iScience, 24(8), 102763.

Boutet I., Ryan M., Kulaga V., McShane C., Christie L., Freedman M. y Milgram N. W. (2005). Age-associated cognitive deficits in humans and dogs: A comparative neuropsychological approach. Progress in Neuro Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 29 (3), 433-441.

Cavalli, C., Carballo, F., Dzik, V., Underwood, S. y Bentosela, M. (2018). Are Animal Assisted Activities dogs different from pet dogs? A comparison of their sociocognitive abilities. Journal of Veterinary Behavior.

Caycho T., Ventura-León J., Castillo-Blanco R. (2016). Magnitud del efecto para la diferencia de dos grupos en ciencias de la salud. Anales del Sistema Sanitario de Navarra, 39 (3), 459.

Chase, H. W., Swainson, R., Durham, L., Benham, L., y Cools, R. (2011). Feedback-related negativity codes prediction error but not behavioral adjustment during probabilistic reversal learning. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 936–946.

Cook, P. F., Prichard, A., Spivak, M., y Berns, G. S. (2016). Awake canine fMRI predicts dogs’ preference for praise vs food. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11(12), 1853-1862.

Costa, V. D., Tran, V. L., Turchi, J. y Averbeck, B. B. (2015) Reversal learning and dopamine: a bayesian perspective. Journal of Neuroscience, 35, 2407-2416.

D’Angelo, L. (2021). Tamaño de efecto, potencia de la prueba, factor de Bayes y meta-análisis en el marco de la crisis de reproducibilidad de la ciencia. El caso de la diferencia de medias -con muestras independientes- (primera parte). Cuadernos del cimbage, 1 (23), 47-82. Recuperado a partir de

Di Rienzo, J. A., Casanoves, F., Balzarini, M. G., Gonzalez, L., Tablada, M. y Robledo C.W. (2020). InfoStat versión 2020. Centro de Transferencia InfoStat, FCA, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina. URL

Diverio, S., Menchetti, L., Riggio, G., Azzari, C., Iaboni, M., Zasso, R. Di Mari, W., y Santoro, M. M. (2017). Dogs’ coping styles and dog-handler relationships influence avalanche search team performance. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 191, 67–77.

Elgier, A., Jakovcevic, A., Mustaca, A. y Bentosela, M. (2012). Pointing following in dogs: are simple or complex cognitive mechanisms involved? Animal Cognition. 15 (6), 1111-1119.

Evans, R. I., Herbold, J. R., Bradshaw, B. S., y Moore, G. E. (2007). Causes for discharge of military working dogs from service: 268 cases (2000–2004). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 231(8), 1215–1220.

Fagnani, J., Barrera, G., Carballo, F., y Bentosela, M. (2016). Is previous experience important for inhibitory control? A comparison between shelter and pet dogs in A-not-B and cylinder tasks. Animal Cognition, 19(6), 1165–1172.

Fagnani, J., Bentosela, M., y Barrera, G. (2020a). Assessing dogs’ performance in a social and non-social reversal learning task. Journal of Dog Behavior, 6(2).

Gácsi, M., McGreevy, P., Kara, E., y Miklósi, Á. (2009). Effects of selection for cooperation and attention in dogs. Behavioral and Brain Functions, 5(1), 31.

George, D. N. (2018). Stimulus similarity affects patterning discrimination learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition, 44(2), 128-148.

Gergely, A., Compton, A. B., Newberry, R. C., y Miklósi, Á. (2016). Social Interaction with an “Unidentified Moving Object” Elicits A-Not-B Error in Domestic Dogs. PLOS ONE, 11(4), e0151600.

Hall, N. J. (2017). Persistence and resistance to extinction in the domestic dog: Basic research and applications to canine training. Behavioural Processes, 141(1), 67-74.

IBM Corp. (2015). IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 23.0. IBM Corp.

Izquierdo, A., Brigman, J. L., Radke, A. K., Rudebeck, P. H., y Holmes, A. (2017). The neural basis of reversal learning: An updated perspective. Neuroscience, 345, 12-26.

Izquierdo, A., y Jentsch, J. D. (2012). Reversal learning as a measure of impulsive and compulsive behavior in addictions. Psychopharmacology, 219(2), 607–620.

Kelly, D. M., Adolphe, J. L., Vernouillet, A., McCausland, J. A., Rankovic, A., y Verbrugghe, A. (2019). Motoric self-regulation by sled dogs and pet dogs and the acute effect of carbohydrate source in sled dogs. Animal Cognition, 22(6), 931–946.

Kundey, S. M. A., De Los Reyes, A., Arbuthnot, J., Allen, R., Coshun, A., Molina, S., y Royer, E. (2010). Domesticated dogs’ (Canis familiaris) response to dishonest human points. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 23(2), 201–215.

Lazarowski, L., Strassberg, L. R., Waggoner, L. P., y Katz, J. S. (2019). Persistence and human-directed behavior in detection dogs: Ontogenetic development and relationships to working dog success. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 220, 104860.

Lazarowski, L., Thompkins, A., Krichbaum, S., Waggoner, L. P., Deshpande, G., y Katz, J. S. (2020). Comparing pet and detection dogs (Canis familiaris) on two aspects of social cognition. Learning & Behavior, 48(4), 432–443.

MacLean, E. L., y Hare, B. (2018). Enhanced Selection of Assistance and Explosive Detection Dogs Using Cognitive Measures. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 5, 236.

Milgram, N. W., Head, E., Weiner, E., y Thomas, E. (1994). Cognitive functions and aging in the dog: Acquisition of nonspatial visual tasks. Behavioral Neuroscience, 108(1), 57–68.

Mongillo, P., Araujo, J. A., Pitteri, E., Carnier, P., Adamelli, S., Regolin, L., y Marinelli, L. (2013). Spatial reversal learning is impaired by age in pet dogs. AGE, 35(6), 2273–2282.

Mongillo, P., Scandurra, A., D’Aniello, B., y Marinelli, L. (2017). Effect of sex and gonadectomy on dogs’ spatial performance. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 191, 84–89.

Oemisch, M., Watson, M. R., Womelsdorf, T. y Schubö, A. (2017) Changes of Attention during Value-Based Reversal Learning Are Tracked by N2pc and Feedback-Related Negativity. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 540.

Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned reflexes. Oxford University Press.

Pearce, J. y Hall, G. (1980). A model for Pavlovian learning: variation in the effectiveness of conditioned but not unconditioned stimuli. Psychological Review, 87, 532-552.

Piotti, P., Szabó, D., Bognár, Z., Egerer, A., Hulsbosch, P., Carson, R. S., y Kubinyi, E. (2018). Effect of age on discrimination learning, reversal learning, and cognitive bias in family dogs. Learning & Behavior, 46(4), 537–553.

Posner, M. y Petersen, S. E. (1990). The attention system of the human brain. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 13, 25-42.

Prato-Previde, E., Marshall-Pescini, S., y Valsecchi, P. (2007). Is your choice my choice? The owners’ effect on pet dogs’ (Canis lupus familiaris) performance in a food choice task. Animal Cognition, 11(1), 167–174.

Range, F., Heucke, S. L., Gruber, C., Konz, A., Huber, L., y Virányi, Z. (2009). The effect of ostensive cues on dogs’ performance in a manipulative social learning task. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 120(3-4), 170-178.

Simon, A., Lazarowski, L., Singletary, M., Barrow, J., Van Arsdale, K., Angle, T., Waggoner, P., y Giles, K. (2020). A Review of the Types of Training Aids Used for Canine Detection Training. Frontiers in Veterinary Sciences, 7, 313.

Szetei, V., Miklósi, Á., Topál, J., y Csányi, V. (2003). When dogs seem to lose their nose: an investigation on the use of visual and olfactory cues in communicative context between dog and owner. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 83(2), 141–152.

Tapp, P. D. (2003). Size and Reversal Learning in the Beagle Dog as a Measure of Executive Function and Inhibitory Control in Aging. Learning & Memory, 10(1), 64–73.

Thorndike, E. L. (1898). Experiments with Dogs. In E. L. Thorndike (Ed.), Animal intelligence: An experimental study of the associative processes in animals (pp. 31–34). Columbia University Press.

Tiira, K., Tikkanen, A., y Vainio, O. (2020). Inhibitory control – Important trait for explosive detection performance in police dogs? Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 224, 104942.

Topal, J., Gergely, G., Erdohegyi, A., Csibra, G., y Miklosi, A. (2009). Differential Sensitivity to Human Communication in Dogs, Wolves, and Human Infants. Science, 325(5945), 1269–1272.

Troisi, C. A., Mills, D. S., Wilkinson, A., y Zulch, H. E. (2019). Behavioral and Cognitive Factors That Affect the Success of Scent Detection Dogs. Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews, 14, 51–76.

Udell, M. A. R. (2015). When dogs look back: inhibition of independent problem-solving behaviour in domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) compared with wolves (Canis lupus). Biology Letters, 11(9), 20150489.

Van Bourg, J., Gunter, L. M., y Wynne, C. D. L. (2021). A rapid serial reversal learning assessment for age-related cognitive deficits in pet dogs. Behavioural Processes, 186, 104375.

Voytko, M. L. (1999). Impairments in acquisition and reversals of two-choice discriminations by aged rhesus monkeys. Neurobiology of Aging, 20(6), 617–627.

Wallis, L., Range, F., Müller, C. y Virányi, Z. (2011). Reversal learning in a social communication task: is there an effect of cue? Journal of Veterinary Behavior.

Wilsson, E., y Sundgren, P. E. (1997). The use of a behaviour test for the selection of dogs for service and breeding, I: Method of testing and evaluating test results in the adult dog, demands on different kinds of service dogs, sex and breed differences. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 53(4), 279–295.

Wobber, V., y Hare, B. (2009). Testing the social dog hypothesis: Are dogs also more skilled than chimpanzees in non-communicative social tasks? Behavioural Processes, 81(3), 423–428.

Wright, H. F., Mills, D. S., y Pollux, P. M. (2011). Development and validation of a psychometric tool for assessing impulsivity in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 24 (2), 210–225.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2022 Fabricio Carballo, Luciana Amezague, Raúl Marin, Mariana Bentosela