In a newly published article, four pigs were taught to play video games by making use of a joystick to move a cursor on a screen in order to hit targets. According to the report, the pigs were first trained to interact with the device by being rewarded treat. However, after the treats were taken away by accident, the pigs continued to interact with the joystick naturally. This was done by simply being encouraged by the researchers to do so.
The pigs in question were named Hamlet and Omlet and Ebony and Ivory. The first two pigs were Yorkshire pigs and the other two were Panepinto micro pigs. Regardless of the breeds, all four pigs showed positive results when interacting with the joystick.
The researchers claim that despite the positive reinforcement (the treats) the pigs still continued clearing levels in the game. Dr Cadance Croney, the lead researcher says that this sort of research is important to tell how pig reacts to the way people interact with them. “What we do to them impacts and matters to them”.
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. Occasionally, during some sessions, equipment failures resulted in non-reward following correct responses. On these occasions, the pigs continued to make correct responses when rewarded only with verbal and tactile reinforcement from the experimenter, who was also their primary caretaker. Additionally, during times when the task demands seemed most challenging for the pigs, and resulted in reluctance to perform, only verbal encouragement by the experimenter was effective in resuming training. This may have been due to the strong bond the pigs developed with the experimenter during training, which would support the assertion of Boysen (1992) that the human-animal bond is a crucial element in the success of animals used in studies of comparative cognition.
The biggest findings from the research come from the association between the joystick and knowing that it moves a cursor on the display. Hamlet was better at the game than Omlet according to the report. While Ivory hit the target 76% of the time, Ebony only hit the target 34% of the time.
Pigs join many other animals who have had positive results when it comes to interactive video-related games. Chimpanzees have proved to be great gamers in the past too. Pig farmer Kate Daniels from Willow Farm in Worcestershire says that the pig’s results should not surprise anyone who works with the animal. Pigs are smarter than they look and can manipulate a situation to get a reward quite easily