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It’s a pigs life: Study reveals swine intelligence

Written by Latest, News

In a recent study by Newcastle University, it has been found that, just like humans, pigs’ mood surprisingly affects their judgements and outlooks on life. Therefore, their decisions aren’t always straight forward.

The research, conducted by scientists specialising in animal behaviour, determined that pigs – and potentially many other animals – think differently based on their personalities, rather than homogeneously. These findings have been considered breakthroughs in the field, as it has always been difficult to understand whether the relation between mood and judgements worked in animals as it does in humans.

According to the results, pigs can present very extroverted or a more neurotic personalities, resulting in assuming respectively optimistic or pessimistic attitudes. A pig that isn’t in a great mood is much more likely to have a rather pessimistic outlook on life than a pig which, instead, feels happier.

The researchers found trained the pigs to recognize two different feeding bowls which contained sugar-coated sweets and coffee beans, both representing a different outcomes. The pigs were observed to enjoy the treats waiting for them in the first bowl, but not the coffee beans – therefore, they knew which one they would rather opt for. Then researchers then decided to introduce a new bowl. In addition, this experiment took place in two different environments which the scientists knew influenced the pigs’ mood.

At this point, the researchers then tested whether the reaction of the pigs would be to approach the new bowl expecting more sweets, or whether they would not walk to the new bowl as they weren’t expecting any extra treats.

Not only did the pigs with a proactive personality and therefore generally more optimistic attitude, responded indeed optimistically, but also the animals staying in the “good mood” environment approached the mysterious feeding bowl with great expectance. Project leader Professor Lisa Collins from the University of Lincoln was delighted with the outcome of the research: “The results of our study clearly show that those pigs living in a worse environment were more pessimistic, and those in a better environment were much more optimistic. Importantly, this finding demonstrates that humans are not unique in combining longer term personality traits with shorter term mood biases when making judgements.”

Dr Lucy Asher as lead author from Newcastle University seemed also very satisfied with results: “The study provides a fascinating insight into the minds of these intelligent animals and paves the way for even more in-depth studies in the future.”

Thought pigs were simply docile and playful animals that oink and roll in mud all day? Think again – they are probably much more intriguing than this.

Last modified: 28th November 2016

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