The Case of the Disappearing Owner: Do Dogs Show Behavioral Evidence of Violation of Expectation?
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Diana Reiss
Dr. Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere
Academic Program Adviser
The What the Fluff challenge became a series of viral YouTube videos that started in 2018. In the videos, a person stood behind a blanket in a doorway in front of their dog and lifted and lowered the blanket revealing and obscuring themselves, and finally disappearing with a final blanket drop. The dogs’ reactions were varied but were suggestive of a violation of expectation response. We conducted a community science study that employed methodologies consistent with the What the Fluff Challenge paradigm that were conducted in the owners’ homes with their dogs. Each owner was required to run a control and experimental condition with their dog and all trials were videotaped from two angles, one behind and one in front of the dog. We hypothesized the dogs would show a change in behavior between the control and experimental conditions after the blanket drop. A total of 19 dogs were tested and a Chi Square test revealed there was no statistical significance (p=.721) between the experimental and control conditions in terms of state change after the blanket is dropped. There were many confounding factors to this study, mainly having to do with the inherent problems having to do with consistency and adherence to protocol in a community science setting. Future studies using a similar paradigm but conducted in controlled laboratory conditions are needed to further investigate the What the Fluff Challenge phenomenon in greater depth.
Kanagat, Rita, "The Case of the Disappearing Owner: Do Dogs Show Behavioral Evidence of Violation of Expectation?" (2023). CUNY Academic Works.
Available for download on Wednesday, January 17, 2024
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