“Here’s looking at you kid!” Goats know when they’re in the spotlight


This research by Christian Nawroth and Alan McElligott investigated whether goats are sensitive to a human’s attentive stance in a more naturalistic and cooperative setting. 
In a series of three experiments, goats had the opportunity to approach one or two experimenters in anticipation of getting a food reward (a piece of pasta). In a first experiment, goats, when confronted with a human who had his back turned to them, actively moved around the experimenter to enter the zone of attention. However, this was only the case for full body orientation and not head orientation alone. In a second experiment, goats had the opportunity to choose between two experimenters, with one paying attention while the other one was looking away. Goats preferred to approach humans that oriented their body and head towards the subject, whereas, again, head orientation alone had no effect on goats’ choice behaviour. In a final experiment, goats were transferred to a separate test arena and were rewarded for approaching two experimenters providing a food reward during training trials. In the subsequent test, goats had to choose between the two experimenters differing in their attentional states. And again, goats did not show a preference for the attentive person when the inattentive person turned her head away from the subject. However, surprisingly, goats preferred to approach the attentive person compared to a person who closed their eyes.

Full article available here: Nawroth, McElligott (2017)_PeerJ