Pigs can learn to play video games to get food

Four animals were trained to use a joystick with their snouts in front of a computer monitor and demonstrated some conceptual understanding.

One of the pigs that participated in the experiment operates a joystick. (Image: Eston Martz / Pennsylvania State University)One of the pigs that participated in the experiment operates a joystick. (Image: Eston Martz / Pennsylvania State University)

A curious study has shown that pigs are capable of playing video games to get food. A group of researchers at Purdue University in Indiana did an investigation in which they have observed that pigs can use a digital screen and use a game controller with their snouts to get food by movements of the cursor.

The research, published in Frontiers in Psychology, was conducted with four pigs who were trained to use a joystick with their snouts in front of a computer monitor during the first phase of the experiment. Then they were taught to play a simple video game where the objective was to move a cursor with the joystick up to some walls. All animals showed some conceptual understanding.

The animals subjected to the experiment managed to solve the game that was proposed to them in the first level, but if the difficulty was increased, they no longer succeeded. Still, this research demonstrates the level of intelligence that pigs possess.

Analysis of cognitive abilities

The experiment developed at Purdue University is part of a research program on animal welfare and analysis of the cognitive abilities of production animals. With the results of these investigations, some management tools, such as automatic feeders, can be improved, or the safety of the animals when they enter the outside can be improved if they know how to move through larger and open spaces without risk.

In the same way, the research wants to deepen the knowledge of how pigs perceive the world, which will improve empathy towards them and the management of their needs.

Croney Candace C., Boysen Sarah T. Acquisition of a Joystick-Operated Video Task by Pigs (Sus scrofa). Front. Psychol., 11 February 2021.

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