Pigs will probably never be able to fly, but new research is revealing that some species within the genus Sus may possess a remarkable level of behavioral and mental flexibility. A study published online on February 11, 2021 in Frontiers in Psychology tested the ability of four pigs to play a simple joystick-enabled video game. The article is titled “Acquisition of a Joystick-Operated Video Task by Pigs (Sus scrofa).” “Each animal demonstrated some conceptual understanding despite limited dexterity on tasks normally given to non-human primates to analyze intelligence. The study involved two Yorkshire pigs named Hamlet and Omelette, and two Panepinto micro pigs, Ebony and Ivory. All four animals were trained to approach and manipulate a joystick with their snouts in front of a computer monitor during the first phase of the experiment. They were then taught how to play a video game in which the goal was to move a cursor using the joystick toward up to four target walls on the screen. Each pig performed the tasks well above chance, indicating the animal understood that the movement of the joystick was connected to the cursor on the computer screen. The fact that these far-sighted animals with no opposable thumbs could succeed at the task is "remarkable," according to the researchers. "It is no small feat for an animal to grasp the concept that the behavior they are performing is having an effect elsewhere. That pigs can do this to any degree should give us pause as to what else they are capable of learning and how such learning may impact them," said lead author Candace Croney, PhD, a professor at Purdue University and Director of the Purdue Center for Animal Welfare Science. Sarah T. Boysen, PhD, known for her work on chimpanzee cognition, co-authored the study.
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