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Video Game-Playing Pigs Stretch Our Concepts of Animal Intelligence

The four pigs came to win. If they played the game well, they got delicious dog food (they used to get M&Ms, but the humans decided those were too sugary). Time and again, when prompted by researchers to complete a video game task—guiding a cursor with a joystick, a sort of rudimentary Pong—they did so with impressive skill.

Researchers began pu tting pigs on computerized tasks in the late 1990s, and though the results got occasional press coverage over the years, no peer-reviewed research on the experiments has been published until today , with a paper in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. The scientists found that despite dextrous and visual constraints on the animals, pigs were able to both understand and achieve goals in simple computer games .

“What they were able to do is perform well above chance at hitting these targets,” said Candace Croney, director of Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science and lead author of the paper, in a phone call. “And well enough above chance that it’s very clear they had some conceptual understanding of what they were being asked to do.”

The published research is the long-awaited fruit of some 20 years of labor that began when Croney was at Purdue University, working with the prolific pig researcher Stanley Curtis. The project followed the efforts of two Yorkshire pigs, Hamlet and Omelet, and two Panepinto micro pigs, Ebony and Ivory, as they attempted to move a cursor to a lit area on the computer screen.

“They beg to play video games,” Curtis told the AP in 1997. “They beg to be the first ones out of their pens, then they trot up the ramp to play.” Read from source….