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Washington, United States
loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Thursday, May 29, 2008

cats and dogs: a one dimensional theory of character

Every so often, I stumble across something that makes me go "whatthe?"

Today, it's a most thought-provoking essay on logarithmic.net on how people's dominance hierarchies are like the characters of dogs and cats. The who like the what now? Yeah. But the essayist has a point, and it's quickly grasped in the snippet below:

"Cat: Scratch my ear. Ex-cellent. May I use your leg as a scratching post? No? Hmm, how about I sit on you instead. Do not move. ... Well done. Now feed me.
Dog: Hello, let's do something. What should we do? ...
Yes, the stick fetching game would be acceptable. ... However I find that stick you are holding uninteresting. Try again. ... Ah, yes, yes!That stick I find quite exciting! Ok, I will fetch the stick. ... That was fun!

The distinction is this: cats propose things to do, dogs either
accept or veto these proposals. In a hierarchy, whenever two people talk one will play the cat and one the dog. In larger hierarchies someone in the middle of the hierarchy may play the dog or the cat depending on who they are talking to.

These roles exist for a good reason: they allow coordinated cooperative
action. In order for a group of people to cooperate, someone (a cat) proposes things to do, and other people (dogs) either say yes or no to the proposals. It is very hard to cooperate without performing some such exchange."

You'll find the further development of this fascinating idea (I think I'm a dog now) here.

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