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Stanley Coren (born 1942) is a psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher who has become best known to the general public for a series of books regarding the intelligence, mental abilities and history of dogs. Through television shows and media coverage that has been broadcast in Canada and the United States as well as overseas, he has become popular with dog owners, while continuing research and instruction in psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Background

Coren was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1942 and attended undergraduate classes at the University of Pennsylvania before earning his doctorate at Stanford University. He went on to teach in The Graduate Faculty of The New School for Social Research in New York, New York before moving to the University of British Columbia in 1973, where he was a psychology professor and the Director of the Human Neuropsychology and Perception Laboratory until 2007.[1] He continues to teach and do research as a professor emeritus.

Outside of the classroom, Coren is an aficionado of dogs, and has made a long career of research into dog behaviour[2] that has led him to national television and into international media. He is an instructor with the Vancouver Dog Obedience Training Club [3], and has participated in numerous obedience trials and competitions across Canada.

Research

In his career, Coren has produced research papers and published items in a wide range of psychological areas including sensory processes (vision and hearing), neuropsychology (handedness, sleep, birth stress effects and behavior genetics) and cognition (information processing and intelligence). He has published more than 400 papers and articles in journals like Science, Nature[1], The New England Journal of Medicine and many more. His research has been recognized with numerous awards over the years, including being named as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. One of his publications, Sensation and Perception, has been listed as required reading for university coursework[4] and went through six editions before his retirement in 2007. Coren's research which has been most influential in psychology can be divided into four distinct areas.

Sensory Processes

Coren began his research career studying vision and visual processes. Much of his early work dealt with various visual illusions, and was done in collaboration with Joan. S. Girgus. They are credited with reopening the interest of psychologists in these visual phenomena, and pointing out how they shed light on basic visual processing[5]. He is also credited with several breakthroughs in the study of what is known as subjective contours or illusory contours[6] Later Coren and A. Ralph Hakstian developed methods for screening vision and hearing without the use of technical equipment, using behaviorally validated questionnaires. These allow group or survey testing for sensory deficits specifically for color blindness[7], color discrimination ability[8], visual acuity[9], binocular vision and steropsis[10] and hearing sensitivity or absolute threshold of hearing[11]. These tests have been widely disseminated and can be found reprinted in various psychological and sensory textbooks[12].

Handedness

A body of research that caught the public interest to a great extent, was Coren's work on left-handedness. With his co-researchers, Diane F. Halpern, Clare Porac, and Alan Searleman he studied the causes and consequences of left-handedness. Specifically his research led him to believe that left-handedness could be a marker for various psychological and physical problems. The media became interested in this work when findings began to emerge indicating that left-handedness was often associated with difficult or stressful births[13]. Research showing that left-handers were much more susceptible to accident-related injuries because the constructed world and most machinery and tools are designed for the safety and convenience of right-handers evoked a great deal of interest and press coverage[14][15]. However the work that caused the largest stir and the most controversy was a series of studies in collaboration with Diane F. Halpern which showed that left-handers have shorter life spans, often dying younger because of accidents or problems associated with a compromised immune system (possibly a long-term consequence of birth stress related trauma)[16][17]. Although originally the source of much controversy, with confirming data coming from a number of other laboratories, these conclusions have become well enough accepted to appear in basic psychological textbooks[18] although the discovery of a possible genetic basis of left-handedness has cast doubt on the wholesale application of Coren's findings [19] .

Sleep

The third area of neuropsychology where Coren contributed significant research has to do with his conclusion that as a society we are chronically suffering from sleep deprivation and that this is contributing to accidents, psychological disturbances, and increased susceptibility to illness[20][21]. This line of reasoning eventually led to the series of studies which demonstrated that simply losing one hour of sleep due to the shift to the shift to daylight saving time can cause an increase in traffic accidents and other accident related fatalities on the Monday following the time change[22][23]

Dog Behavior and the Human Canine Bond

Later in his career, Coren shifted to the study of canine behavior and the relationship that people have with their dogs. This shift away from neuropsychological research also marked a shift in his publishing strategy, away from single study publications in research journals, to publication of his new data as part of material presented in book form. Many of his books on dogs do contain hithertofore unpublished empirical data. For example his book "The Intelligence of Dogs"[24] is based on a survey sent to all of the dog obedience judges in the United States and Canada, and resulted in the ranking of 110 dog breeds by intelligence. This ranking caused a rather large media stir[25][26]. His book "Why we love the dogs we do"[27] looks at the personality of people and how the owner's personality predicts their relationship with various dog breeds. It is based on a survey of more than 6000 people who took a personality test and reported on their experiences with the various dogs that they have owned. This book proved to be very popular and Coren's personality test is now used by some dog shelters to determine whether prosepective owners are suitable for a particular breed of dog[28]. Similarly, his book "Why does my dog act that way?"[29] uses data from approximately a thousand dogs to determine features of the personality of various dog breeds[30]. However other books that he has written on dog behavior have provided less formal data presentation and in these his creative contribution is based on the organization and interpretation of the research of others, as is the case in "How to speak dog"[31]. These books have also been well accepted and have been proven to be very popular[32]. Overall, it is probably true that for scientific audiences Coren is best known for his neuropsychological contributions while for the general public his his best known for his writing and research concerning dogs, dog behavior, and the relationship between dogs and people.

Books

Coren's first widely recognized book outside of professional psychology circles was 1993's "The Left-Hander Syndrome: the causes and consequences of left-handedness," which presented data on the significant challenges faced by left-handed people in society.[33] His research was discussed widely, and has been printed and discussed in a number of professional journals such as The Psychiatric Times.[34] His next book was "Sleep Thieves," the result of his studies into sleep and the lack of it[35] . The book examined how the reduction of sleeping time in modern society has created problems of sleep deprivation for many people.[36][37]

Arguably, however, it was the 1994 publication of "The Intelligence Of Dogs" that brought Coren to the public eye. A combination of Coren's background in psychology and his long-lasting love of dogs, the book became an international hit, and has gone through 16 printings to this point.[38]

Since then, Coren has gone on to pen a number of other books on dog intelligence, dog learning and thinking ability, the human canine bond and its implications for people in modern society[39] that have continued to make him a favourite among dog lovers.[40].

His books have been well received internationally. For example, "The Intelligence of Dogs" has been translated into 26 different languages.

A list of his best known books (listing the most recent editions of each) includes:

  • The Modern Dog. (Free Press, 2008)
  • Why do dogs have wet noses? (Kids Can Press, 2008) [Winner of the Animal Behavior Society's award for Best Children's Book]
  • Understanding your dog for dummies. (Wiley Publishing Inc. 2007)
  • Why does my dog act that way? A complete guide to your dog’s personality. (Free Press, 2006)
  • The Intelligence of Dogs (Free Press,2006) [Revised and updated edition, first edition 1993]
  • Sensation and Perception 6th ed. (John Wiley & Sons, 2004) [First edition 1978]
  • The Pawprints of history: Dogs and the course of human events. (Free Press, 2003)
  • How to speak dog: Mastering the art of dog-human communication. (Fireside Books, Simon & Schuster, 2001)
  • Why We Love The Dogs We Do. (Free Press, 1998)
  • What Do Dogs Know? (Free Press, 1997)
  • Sleep Thieves. (Free Press, 1996)
  • The left-hander syndrome: the causes and consequences of left-handedness. (Vintage Books, 1993) [Revised edition with new "Afterword", first edition 1991][Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award]
  • Left-handedness: Behavioral implications and anomalies. (Advances in Psychology, North-Holland, 1990)
  • Lateral preferences and human behavior. (Springer Verlag, 1981)
  • Seeing is Deceiving: The Psycholosgy of Visual Illusions. (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1978).

Other publications

Coren is also a regular contributor to a number of dog and pet related magazines including Modern dog (magazine)[41], AnimalSense[42], and "Pets Magazine". In addition he was both on the editorial board and a regular contributor to "Pets: Part of the Family", and is currently on the editorial board and a contributor to the magazine "Puppy and Dog Basics Magazine."[43] He also does the bi-monthly “Canine Corner” informational blog[44] on the Psychology Today Website.

Television

With the success of "The Intelligence Of Dogs," Coren received substantial media coverage, appearing on shows throughout Canada and the United States, as well as being cited by major newspapers throughout North America. His success led to the creation of the television show Good Dog!, appearing on the Life Network in Canada and syndicated in Australia and New Zealand.[45] The show is focused on training for the family dog, including how to read body language and how to test his intelligence. He is also one of the human stars of The Animal Attraction, an Australian Broadcasting Corporation program.[46] Most recently he is regularly featured on the TV show Pet Central which is broadcast on the Pet Network in Canada [47].

Coren was also involved in the development of The Dog Companion DVD series[48] aimed at aiding dogs with separation issues, providing video intended to give dogs something they can watch when left alone.[49]

Awards and honors

Coren's psychological research and teaching has been honored many times including being named as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada [50] and a Killam Senior Research Fellow [51]. In recognition of the quality of his work he has been elected to fellowship status by numerous professional societies including, the American Psychological Association [52], Canadian Psychological Association [53] and the Association for Psychological Science [54], and he was designated by the International Biographical Association as one of the "2000 Outstanding Scientists of the Twentieth Century" [55]. Other honors include a Canadian Psychiatric Association Research Award (1992) and the Robert E. Knox Master Teacher Award [56].

His writing and his books have also received numerous honors including the Animal Behavior Society's Outstanding Children's Book Award for 2007 [57]. He was named "Writer of the Year" by the International Positive Dog Training Association [58]. His book “Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses” was named as one of the top 10 Canadian children’s books of 2006 by the Ontario Library Association,[59] and received the Red Cedar Book Award (2009) for best nonfiction children’s book (sponsored by library associations in British Columbia)[60]. He was also a finalist for Dog Writers Association of America[61], Award in Magazine Feature category for “Guardian Angel” (2008) and a finalist for Los Angeles Times book award for "The Left-hander Syndrome" (1992)

References

  1. Stanley Coren bio
  2. Reader's Digest interview, undated
  3. Vancouver Dog Obedience
  4. example: Course listing, Jacobs University, 2007
  5. Example: Kaufman, L. (1979). The Puzzles We Call Illusions. PsycCRITIQUES, Vol 24 (12)
  6. See, for example, Petry, S. and Meyer, G.E. (1987) The Perception of illusory contours, New York: Springer-Verlag.
  7. Coren, S. & Hakstian, A.R. (1988) Color vision screening without the use of technical equipment: Scale development and cross validation. Perception and Psychophysics, 43, 115-120
  8. Coren, S. & Hakstian, A.R. (1995). Testing color discrimination without the use of special stimuli or technical equipment. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 81, 931-938.
  9. Coren, S. & Hakstian, A.R. (1989). A behaviorally validated self-report inventory of the measurement of visual acuity. International Journal of Epidemiology, 18, 451-456.
  10. Coren, S. & Hakstian, A.R. (1996). Screening for stereopsis without the use of technical equipment: Scale development and cross-validation. International Journal of Epidemiology, 25, 146-152.
  11. Coren, S. & Hakstian, A.R. (1992). The development and cross-validation of a self-report inventory to assess pure tone threshold hearing sensitivity. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 35, 921-928.
  12. Example: Gazzaniga,M.E, Halpern,DF, Heatherton, TF. (2009). Psychological Science, New York: Norton
  13. Example: Older moms have more lefthanded babies. New Scientist, 21 July 1990
  14. Example: A Sinister Bias: New Studies Cite Perils for Lefties, ny times Tuesday, August 29, 1989
  15. Example: The Perils of Being a Lefty, Time Magazine, Apr. 15, 1991
  16. Example Being Left-Handed May Be Dangerous To Life, Study Says, New York Times Apr 4, 1991. p. A21
  17. Example: Life for the lefties: from annoying to downright risky, Smithsonian, 1 Dec 1994
  18. Example: Myers, D., Psychology, 8th edition, New York: Worth
  19. "The left brain knows what the right hand is doing", http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/01/brain.html Monitor on Psychology Volume 40, No. 1 January 2009
  20. Example: Facing up to the realities of sleep deprivation, New York times , 31 March, 1998
  21. Example: How did we lose control of sleep? Toronto Star, 29 October 2006
  22. Example: The mother of all Mondays, Globe and Mail, 30 March 2009
  23. Example: Drooping eyes? Blame it on daylight saving, Toronto Star, 12 March, 2009
  24. Coren, S. The Intelligence of Dogs. (Free Press,2006) revised edition
  25. Example: My dog's smarter than your dog, New York times, 5 June 1994
  26. Example: Charle Rose Show, 13 April 1994
  27. Coren, S. Why We Love The Dogs We Do. (Free Press, 1998)
  28. Example: A canine valentine for dog lovers, CNN, June 29, 1998
  29. Coren, S. Why does my dog act that way? A complete guide to your dog’s personality. (Free Press, 2006)
  30. Example: Detroit Free Press, 21 Feb 2008
  31. Coren, S. How to speak dog: Mastering the art of dog-human communication. (Fireside Books, Simon & Schuster, 2001)
  32. Example: How to have a meaningful chat with the dog, The Sun-Herald, 27 March, 2005
  33. Books of The Times; Sinister Aspects of Left-Handedness, New York Times, Jan. 23, 1992
  34. The Psychiatric Times, March 1, 1998
  35. example: Sleep Deprivation, Psychosis and Mental Efficiency, Psychiatric Times, Vol. 15 No. 3, March 1, 1998
  36. The Health Report, Radio National, Australia, May 1, 2000
  37. Hitting the wall, CNN.com, December 4, 2000
  38. Simon & Schuster website
  39. "How Dogs Think", The Early Show, Aug. 20, 2004
  40. Bibliography
  41. Modern Dog Magazine
  42. AnimalSense Magazine
  43. Puppy and Dog Basics Magazine
  44. Canine Corner
  45. The Life Network
  46. The Animal Attraction website
  47. Pet Central on the Pet Network
  48. [www.thedogdvd.com The Dog Companion DVD series]
  49. New DVD's boring for humans but may entertain and calm home alone dogs Mckay, John: The Canadian Press Syndicate, November 27, 2007]
  50. Royal Society of Canada
  51. Killam Trusts Award winners
  52. American Psychological Association: "Directory of the American Psychological Association" APA Press, Washington, D.C. 1997
  53. Canadian Psychological Association: "Directory - Canadian Psychological Association" CPA and APS, Ottawa 1992
  54. Association for Psychological Science
  55. International Biographical Association
  56. [www.library.ubc.ca/.../ubcreports/UBC_Reports_1988_06_09.pdf UBC Reports June 9, 1988]
  57. Animal Behavior Society Children's Book Award
  58. International Positive Dog Training Association Awards
  59. Kids Can Press book information
  60. Red Cedar Children's Book Award
  61. Dog Writers Association of America

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