These Videos Of A Dog Reading Will Blow Your Mind
He's a 2-year-old German shepherd who lives with his fur family, which includes a Shibe named MuiMui and four foster kittens, near New York City.
Like most other good boys, he knows a cool trick or two, which has helped him build up a massive audience on Instagram (65,000+ followers and counting).
But something separates Rambo from other pups and that something appears to be his ability to "read" commands flashed on cards to him by his human mom, Lily.
In a video uploaded to YouTube in February, Lily prompts Rambo to bow and sit, all without verbal cues — and rewards him with treats upon the successful completion of said tricks.
As you might imagine, it's kinda mind-blowing:
A second clip posted in January treads on similar ground:
So what exactly is going on here? Can Rambo actually distinguish between different commands presented in text form? Can dogs read? Do they actually know if you call another dog a good boy?
The science is, well, mixed and unclear, but it's highly implausible.
The answer, as one YouTube commenter theorizes, is that dogs "recognize the image on the card and associate it with a command or trick" in the same way that people "associate street lights with commands like go and stop".
A second hypothesis is centered around something called the Clever Hans effect, so dubbed for a German Orlov Trotter horse that rose to fame early in the 20th century for its ability to — I KID YOU NOT — do math and basic arithmetic.
As an investigation in 1907 revealed, Hans couldn't really read text so much as he could read the body language of the human partner and then crafting his answers accordingly to arrive at the correct answer:
"Using a substantial number of trials, [psychologist Oskar] Pfungst found that the horse could get the correct answer even if [his owner Wilhelm] von Osten himself did not ask the questions, ruling out the possibility of fraud. However, the horse got the right answer only when the questioner knew what the answer was and the horse could see the questioner. He observed that when von Osten knew the answers to the questions, Hans got 89 percent of the answers correct, but when von Osten did not know the answers to the questions, Hans answered only six percent of the questions correctly."
Though certainly disappointing for animal fans, findings from this investigation would later dramatically reshape how researchers approached bias and testing methodology.
Will Rambo's video be similarly influential? Only time will tell.