Like every generation before it, the current generation of performers likes to believe that we have at last solved the problem of naturalism in acting. Older styles of acting were ritualized and unrealistic, but now our performance methods have reached such a peak of accuracy in the reproduction of real human speech and behavior that our acting is indistinguishable from real life.

Scientifically speaking, this is balderdash. Our current styles of acting are stale and ritualized, almost liturgically artificial. The only reason we insist that acting in our current movies and television entertainment is “natural” is because we have agreed to consider certain clichés as standing in for nature.

We say scientifically speaking because Dr. Boli has proved his assertion by a scientific experiment that does not depend on the reaction of a human audience. He asked the dog. If you have a good watchdog at home, you can try the same experiment yourself.

First, you can play a movie or television show on your computer so that the dog can hear it. Result: Dog does nothing. Dog knows that dog is not hearing real people talking: it is ritualized performance recorded somewhere else, at some other time, and is of no concern to dog.

Now make a video call to some friend from the same computer, so that the sound comes out of the loudspeaker at the same volume. Result: Dog leaps into a barking frenzy to warn you of a perimeter breach. Dog can hear that this is a real person talking. It is not ritualized performance at all.

Nothing has changed in the quality or source of the sound. The only thing that has changed is the rhythm and expression of the person talking. Dog ignores the fictional character because dog has learned that fictional characters are not real people and do not invade the house.

The same, incidentally, is true of news and information programs. Reporters have their own ritualized expression, which is completely uninteresting to dogs. Dogs understand the difference between television personalities and real people—a lesson we humans would do well to learn.

So the next time you hear someone praise the utterly natural performance of a certain actor, ignore the critic. Ask your dog instead. Your dog is a better judge.