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Pigs Impress Researchers With Video Game Skills

They used their snouts to control joystick
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 12, 2021 10:31 AM CST

(Newser) – You won't see Wilbur joining a Call of Duty session any time soon, but researchers have confirmed that pigs are capable of playing video games. In a study published in the journal Frontiers of Psychology, animal behavior specialist Candace Croney and chimpanzee cognition expert Sarah Boysen says four pigs were trained to manipulate a joystick with their snouts before they were taught to play a simple video game that involved steering a cursor into walls. The researchers say the pigs showed remarkable progress in learning to play the game, which had been designed for chimpanzees, CNET reports. They say food treats helped encouraged the porcine gamers, but they also responded very well to verbal encouragement.

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The researchers say it was "no small feat" for the pigs to grasp that the joystick they were moving was having an effect on what was happening on the screen. They say it is "indicative of their behavioral and cognitive flexibility." They say the pigs weren't as good at the game as the chimps it was designed for—partly because their "ability to manipulate objects is significantly less dexterous and flexible." The researchers say touch-screen games might be a better option for further research, which could include examining whether it's possible to directly communicate with the animals through a computer interface. "I don't think this will come as a surprise to anyone that works with pigs," farmer Kate Daniels tells the BBC. "They're not playing Minecraft—but that they can manipulate a situation to get a reward is no surprise at all." (Read more pigs stories.)

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