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With Dogs, It's What You Say — and How You Say It
by JAMES GORMAN, nytimes.comAugust 30, 2016
Dogs that were trained to enter an M.R.I. machine for the research. Credit Enik Kubinyi
Photo by: Enik Kubinyi
Who's a good dog?
Well, that depends on whom you're asking, of course. But new research suggests that the next time you look at your pup, whether Maltese or mastiff, you might want to choose your words carefully.
"Both what we say and how we say it matters to dogs," said Attila Andics, a research fellow at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest.
Dr. Andics, who studies language and behavior in dogs and humans, along with Adam Miklosi and several other colleagues, reported in a paper to be published in this week's issue of the journal Science that different parts of dogs' brains respond to the meaning of a word, and to how the word is said, much as human brains do.
A dog waiting for its brain activity to be measured in a magnetic resonance imaging machine for research reported in the journal Science. Credit Enik Kubinyi
Photo by: Enik Kubinyi
As with people's brains, parts of dogs' left hemisphere react to meaning and parts of the right hemisphere to intonation — the emotional content of a sound. And, perhaps most interesting to dog owners, only a word of praise said in a positive tone really made the reward system of a dog's brain light up.
The experiment itself was something of an achievement. Dr. Andics and his colleagues trained dogs to enter a magnetic resonance imaging machine and lie in a harness while the machine recorded their brain activity.
A trainer spoke words in Hungarian — common words of praise used by dog owners like "good boy," "super" and "well done." The trainer also tried neutral words like "however" and "nevertheless." Both the praise words and neutral words were offered in positive and neutral tones.
The research found that different parts of dogs' brains respond to the meaning of a word and to how the word is said, much as human brains do. Credit Vilja and Vanda Molnár
Photo by: Vilja and Vanda Molnár
The positive words spoken in a positive tone prompted strong activity in the brain's reward centers. All the other conditions resulted in significantly less action, and all at the same level.
In other words, "good boy" said in a neutral tone and "however" said in a positive or neutral tone all got the same response.
What does it all mean? For dog owners, Dr. Andics said, the findings mean that the dogs are paying attention to meaning, and that you should, too.
That doesn't mean a dog won't wag its tail and look happy when you say, "You stinky mess" in a happy voice. But the dog is looking at your body language and your eyes, and perhaps starting to infer that "stinky mess" is a word of praise.
Anna Gabor speaking to a dog as part of the research. Credit Vilja and Vanda Molnár
Photo by: Vilja and Vanda Molnár
In terms of evolution of language, the results suggest that the capacity to process meaning and emotion in different parts of the brain and tie them together is not uniquely human. This ability had already evolved in non-primates long before humans began to talk.
Brian Hare, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University who was not involved in the study, said he thought the experiment was well done and suggested that specialization of right and left hemispheres in processing information began to evolve well before human language. But, he said, it was still possible that dogs had independently evolved a similar brain organization.
Dr Hare, who studies both dogs and primates, and specializes in cognitive neuroscience and evolution, also pointed out that the dogs could leave the experiment at any time. He wrote in an email, "They were volunteers as much as is possible with animals." Primates, he said, cannot be trained to undergo MRI scans willingly.
© 2016 The New York Times Company.
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News Opinion Commentary
Commentary: What's wrong with Donald Trump?
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Joni's Roast and Ride, a fundraiser for a PAC, at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. (Gerald Herbert / AP)
The Washington Post
For months now, ordinary people, politicians and pundits have speculated in public and private: Is there, you know, something wrong with Donald Trump? Laymen would say he is "nuts" or "crazy," while a mental health professional might say "suffering from a personality disorder."
It's not one trait or attribute, but the whole complex of behaviors: lack of impulse control, self-obsession (to the point at which all human tragedies are seen as they affect him — the Orlando massacre proves was he right! Dwyane Wade's cousin Nykea Aldridge in Chicago was killed, so vote for him!), habitual lying and exaggeration, grandiosity, lack of empathy and need for constant adoration. There is also his rambling, sometimes unintelligible speech pattern. He flits from one thought to the next by stringing sentence fragments together, never completing a thought or a sentence.
￼ Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
Dwyane Wade's cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago. Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!
11:26 AM - 27 Aug 2016
9,066 9,066 Retweets 26,723 26,723 likes
￼ Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
My condolences to Dwyane Wade and his family, on the loss of Nykea Aldridge. They are in my thoughts and prayers.
12:48 PM - 27 Aug 2016
8,982 8,982 Retweets 30,466 30,466 likes
We have seen TV diagnoses, most recently from David Plouffe ("psychopath") and Monday from the "Morning Joe" panel. Such pronouncements are met with the admonition that it is inappropriate and impossible to diagnose mental illness without examining the patient. But, of course, we are in an election, not a hospital; talking heads are not bound by the limits of medical ethics. Besides, what if he really is suffering from some mental illness?
There are several considerations at work here. First, the answer to whether he is mentally ill is unknowable, because Trump is not about to admit he has a problem, nor submit to an evaluation. (If he did, the ensuing report would no doubt be written in Trump-ese, like his first doctor's note. The most awesome mental health of any president ever!) Second, the conversation is unproductive, since it inevitably comes down to the debate not about Trump but about the impropriety of rendering medical judgments from afar. Third, it leaves open the door to scurrilous accusations from Trump and his minions that Hillary Clinton is seriously ill, an accusation entirely without foundation.
Most important, however, it does not matter. We don't care, and it should not matter, if Trump has "narcissistic personality disorder" or is just a self-centered jerk. Whether he is ill or evil, afflicted or just obnoxious, ailing or inhumane, the result is the same. At age 70, he is not about to "seek help" or change his behavior. He may be unable to change his behavior; he certainly is unwilling to. Whatever the origins of his behavior, the results — millions of Americans are concluding — make him unfit to serve.
Diagnosing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
Presidents need to read and learn from others; Trump consults his "own brain," seems to read nothing longer than a National Enquirer article and says he only surrounds himself with people who are not as smart as he. Presidents need empathy; Trump has none. Presidents must be calm under stress, exercise self-control, and be precise and measured in their responses to events. Trump flails wildly, becomes more erratic under pressure and routinely reacts out of anger. Presidents are entrusted with great power; Trump abuses his position (e.g. forcing others to sue him to get paid) and is devoid of respect for fellow human beings. We ask presidents to be role models; Trump is vulgar, crude and materialistic, reducing the world to winners and losers.
It might be reassuring in some sense to find out that Trump is ill. The reality is that it's just as likely that he's an obnoxious, entitled ignoramus. Either way, he shouldn't get anywhere near the Oval Office.
Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.
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From: The Black Star Project, USA <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tue, Aug 16, 2016, 9:30 AM
Subject: To Stop Violence in Chicago, Let Them Eat Hot Dogs!