Inequity aversion, defined as having a negative reaction to unfair treatment, was considered to be a uniquely human trait for decades but has since been found to exist in a variety of animals, including primates and dogs. Although dogs have been shown to be affected in their decision making based on their familiarity with the humans testing them, this effect had not been previously examined in regard to their responses to inequity aversion. This study aimed to partially replicate the results shown in the first ever study to find inequity aversion in dogs and to further investigate whether their responses were different with a familiar experimenter, their owner, or a stranger. The hypothesis was that dogs would be more tolerant of unequal treatment from their owners and would therefore show fewer negative responses. Eight dogs of various breeds were tested by having a partner and subject sitting next to each other while the experimenter, who varied based on familiarity, asked them to “give paw”. The partner dog was always rewarded whereas the subject dog was either rewarded or not based on the fairness condition. The results showed a significant main effect of fairness on number of commands, signs of stress, and refusals to work. No main effects were found for familiarity, but results were limited by a small sample size and the particular quantification of the dependent measures, Future studies are justified to explore the effects of familiarity on inequity aversion in dogs.


Thompson, Claudia



Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



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