Some pigs! Research shows pigs can play video games, respond to human encouragement

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New research reveals that pigs can display a remarkable level of behavioral and mental flexibility.

A study published this month in Frontiers in Psychology tested the ability of four pigs to play a simple joystick-enabled video game. 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.

pig moving joystick

Yorkshire pig operating the joystick
Credit:
Eston Martz / Pennsylvania State University

Each pig performed the tasks well above chance, indicating the animals 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,” said lead author Dr. Candace Croney, a professor at Purdue University and director of the Purdue Center for Animal Welfare Science. “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.”

Scientists already know that pigs are capable of various types of learning, from the same sort of basic obedience commands taught to dogs like “come” and “sit” to more complex behaviors that require them to change behaviors when the rules of the game change.

One study has even shown that pigs can use mirrors to find hidden food in an enclosure, Croney noted.

In the current study, the team used food to teach and reinforce behaviors, but also found that social contact could work. For instance, when the machine dispensing treats failed, the pigs continued to make correct responses using only verbal and tactile cues. Only verbal encouragement seemed to help the animals during the most challenging tasks.

“This sort of study is important because, as with any sentient beings, how we interact with pigs and what we do to them impacts and matters to them,” Croney said. “We therefore have an ethical obligation to understand how pigs acquire information, and what they are capable of learning and remembering, because it ultimately has implications for how they perceive their interactions with us and their environments.”

While the pigs could not match the skill level of non-human primates on the video task, the researchers said the shortcomings could partially be explained by the nature of the experiment, which was designed for dexterous, visually-oriented mammals.

Source: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-02/f-psp020321.php

Featured image: Smiling pig from publicdomainpictures.net

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Long Island company’s pet policy now includes pigs

Pet product designed to challenge notions of what dogs and cats can learn

 

 


Our review of Stinky Pig

Reading Time: < 1 minute

I found this Stinky Pig game at Walgreens for under $10 and decided to bring it on a trip to New York to visit my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. (Wow, there’s a sentence I never would have predicted I would be typing!)

Stinky Pig is actually available at a variety of retailers besides Walgreen’s. The lowest price we saw online was $5.61 at Amazon.

The game is pretty simple to play. Just press the pig’s belly and it starts to sing, which you can hear in the video above. As you can see in the instructions shown below, you pass it to other players and the player to be stuck holding the pig when it, well…passes gas, has to take a token.

instructions

I played with my sister and nephew and we had a lot of fun. My brother-in-law did not partake in Stinky Pig because of, well, perhaps dignity.

While Stinky Pig not the most challenging or cerebral game, it is good for laughs and kids (the package says “Ages 6 & up”), so I would recommend it if you’re looking for something to lighten up an evening or rainy day. I’d also say if you’re party is a little dull, you might want to bring out Stinky Pig to liven things up. (Again, there’s a sentence I never thought I would type!)

 

 

Long Island company’s pet policy now includes pigs

Reading Time: 2 minutes

SupplyHouse.com employee’s pet pig hogs all the attention in the office

MELVILLE, New York (PRNewswire) — SupplyHouse.com, an e-commerce company that sells plumbing, heating and HVAC supplies, modified their in office pet policy to allow pigs.

On Tuesday, Feb. 5th, employee Steve Erickson brought his pet pig, Truffles, to the office for a day of snorts and tail wagging.

 

While dogs tend to be the norm around the office (and on the website), Erickson was eager to bring in his ­­now 24-pound pet pig.

“I really enjoyed seeing everyone bring their dogs in the office,” said Erickson. “Once I got Truffles, I thought it would be so much fun to introduce my new pet to my coworkers. Plus, it was right around the same time as the Chinese New Year, and it just so happens to be the year of the pig. The timing was perfect.”

Because a pig has never been to the company’s headquarters before, Erickson reached out to the Human Resources department in hopes that a pig would fall under the current pet policy.

“We implemented our pet policy about three years ago now,” said Julie Collins, Human Resources Associate. “I was a little nervous [to have a pig come into the office] because dogs have been the only four legged friends to join us up until now, but they [dogs] bring so much joy and I knew a pig would do the same.”

Employees were thrilled to hear that a pig was going to be visiting the office.

“It felt like when Ed Sullivan introduced The Beatles, everybody was so excited,” said Erickson.”There was a buildup for a few days of everybody asking when she was coming. I imagine there’s not a lot of workplaces that would have let me bring her in.”

Now, both dogs and pigs alike are welcome in the office, whether it’s for a few hours or the whole day. Such opportunities allow employees to get to know one another a bit more through their four legged friends.

WMPDT Editor’s note: We do not know if the pig went “weee, weee, weee all the way home.”