Hogging the joystick: Pigs can play computer games, study shows

June 11, 2021

Pigs have been taught to play video games by using a joystick—in a study that confirms their high intelligence, reports The Independent UK.

Indeed, it’s long been known that pigs are smarter than dogs, and are believed to be  the sixth-most intelligent creature on Earth—after ravens and crows, chimpanzees, elephants, gorillas, and dolphins.

Early 20th-century studies found that they could solve multiple-choice problems; and later studies showed they could learn to obtain light, produce extra heat for their enclosures; and acquire feed.

For the latest study researchers at Purdue University trained four pigs to control a cursor on a monitor, using their snouts to move the joystick in return for rewards. They used two micro pigs called Ebony and Ivory; and two Yorkshire pigs, called Hamlet and Omelet, to test the animals’ abilities.

Writing in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, Professor Candace Croney of Purdue University, and Sarah Boysen said they showed the animals a video game in which they had to use a joystick to maneuver a cursor until it collided with one of four wall-like structures on screen, making a sound—at which point the pig received a food treat.

“Although food rewards associated with the task were likely a motivating factor, the social contact the pigs experienced with their trainer also appeared to be very important,” the researchers wrote.

Even when the equipment failed and there were no treats, the pigs still made correct responses, being rewarded only with “verbal and tactile reinforcement from the experimenter,” they said.

“This may have been due to the strong bond the pigs developed with the experimenter during training.”

Croney said: “Potentially there may be more that pigs are capable of learning and understanding and responding to than we have previously envisaged.”

Philip Lymbery, global chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, said the study highlighted a need for the animals to be treated better. “This latest research shows pigs are even more intelligent than we ever thought, yet we still keep the majority of pigs in the most appallingly deprived conditions on factory farms,” he said.

Research contact: @independent

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