Zoek medewerkers/organisaties JR Noordenbos MSc
Naam JR Noordenbos MSc

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I am an animal scientist with a strong interest in animal cognition, animal personality, domestication processes and the human - pet bond. From a young age onwards I have been fascinated by how much animals understand and how behaviour develops. I studied animal sciences at Wageningen University with the intent to study animal behaviour. My main interest is the social cognition of dogs, but over the years I have worked with cats, pigs, rabbits, horses and fish as well. 

I completed my bachelor's degree in 2017 with a thesis on human-directed altruism in pet dogs. I continued with the research master, where I did a thesis on personality differences in piglets from different housing systems at Wageningen University, and a thesis on dogs' understanding of human knowledge at Portsmouth University. I graduated my studies cum laude in 2020. Next to my formal studies, I took several courses on dog behaviour and am a certified dog instructor. After graduation I started my own company, organising workshops on dog behaviour and giving puppy training and obedience classes.

In November 2021 I joined the Behavioural Ecology (BHE) group as a research assistant, where I am involved in education and in supervising students doing their thesis research. In February 2023 I started my own (parttime) PhD project on canine social cognition. 

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  Jori Noordenbos op Ander netwerk
  Jori Noordenbos op Linkedin


PhD project: The development of human directed social cognition in dogs

Social cognition is the umbrella term for all the psychological processes that are needed to thrive in a social group. It enables individuals to read emotions and understand others. In humans, we often speak of a ‘theory of mind’ (ToM), defined as the ability to attribute mental states, such as perspectives, knowledge and beliefs, to others. Although all aspects of ToM are apparent in humans, the level or even the existence of theory of mind in non-human animals still remains a point of discussion in science. Although there is a general consensus on some primate and corvid species having social cognitive abilities that allow them to attribute mental states to conspecifics, a general theory of mind – allowing the understanding of other species as well – is thus far only known in humans.

Interestingly, when domestic dogs are tested for their understanding of their conspecifics’ mental states, they often seem to struggle or are outperformed by wolves, their closest living, undomesticated relative. This may be explained by the fact that pet dogs have little or no reliance on their conspecifics and rather depend on humans for food and company. Dogs’ dependence on humans has made it relevant for them to understand humans, including their perspectives and potentially even knowledge. While we know that most dogs readily understand human body language and perspective, not a lot is none yet of which specific human directed social cognitive abilities they possess. Moreover, we do not know yet what influences the development of these abilities. Are they side effects of selection for specific traits during domestication or artificial selection; the result of a specific way of socialization or training by humans; abilities that develop with age; or are there other factors influencing how much dogs understand of us humans? With this PhD project we aim to fill that gap of knowledge to contribute to our understanding of the development of cognitive abilities in non-human animals. More specifically, it will give us insight in dogs’ cognitive abilities, including the effects of training and husbandry. Appropriate expectations about what dogs understand when we interact with them can prevent disappointment and miscommunications between dogs and their handlers and thus contribute to the welfare of pet dogs.

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