It’s always been said that apes are our closest relatives, but it turns out today’s younger generations could have an unexpected similarity with another member of the animal kingdom.
Scientists have found out that it’s possible to teach pigs how to play video games, and even think they might enjoy playing them for the social contact.
The BBC reports that four pigs trained to operate arcade-style joysticks with their snouts were able to understand the link between the controller and the game on the screen, and unlike other animals didn’t even need to be prompted with a reward to play.
The team behind the study, which was recently published in Frontiers in Psychology, said that while they initially gave the pigs – named Hamlet, Omelette, Ebony and Ivory – a food pellet each time they completed a level, the pigs continued playing even after the food dispenser broke.
Much like human gamers, there were varying levels of skill on display from the four pigs. The most successful was Ivory, who was able to hit its targets to pass the level an impressive 76% of the time, whereas Ebony may not have caught the gaming bug, clearing the levels only around one-third of the time.
Unsurprisingly, all of the pigs struggled as the levels got harder, but while many of us would probably give up on a game once we realised we weren’t good at it, that didn’t stop them from trying. In fact, it actually seems like the pigs were motivated to keep going by hearing encouraging words and praise from the researchers.
Despite the wide variation in success between the four pigs, researchers say that they’re confident the results show that rather than just clearing levels by chance, ‘to some extent, all acquired the association between the joystick and cursor’ and were able to move the controller deliberately with their snouts.
Lead study author Dr Candace Croney also said that the fact that the pigs could be encouraged by the researchers demonstrated that ‘as with any sentient beings, how we interact with pigs and what we do to them impacts and matters to them’.
All this being said, it doesn’t seem like pigs are about to win an inter-species Call of Duty tournament any time soon. Researchers say that a similar experiment with chimpanzees and monkeys showed far more advanced results, although they did have the distinct advantage of opposable thumbs instead of trotters.
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