A group of researchers has spent the last 20 years testing pigs to see how well they can play a computer game—in which the pigs use a joystick to maneuver a dot on-screen towards a target.
The scientists finally published a paper concluding that, yep, the pigs have some mad skills. It's all the more remarkable because the game was designed for primate hands, yet the pigs had to play it using their snouts.
The full paper, unpaywalled, is here; Gizmodo spoke to researchers and got some terrific comments:
"We've known for ages that pigs could do all sorts of learning and problem-solving. Any farmer can tell you this, and many scientists have demonstrated it," Croney said. "What's different here…is that the pigs had to grasp the very difficult concept that the thing they were manipulating (the joystick) was having its effect on a 2-dimensional computer-generated image (the cursor) that they could not touch, smell or interact with directly. That sort of conceptual learning is a huge mental leap for any animal, as this would never happen in the real world."
"There is nothing in the natural behavior or evolutionary history of the pig that would have suggested they could do this to any degree," Croney added. [snip]
"What makes these findings even more important is that the pigs in this study displayed self-agency," Marino added, "which is the ability to recognize that one's' own actions make a difference."
I shouldn't eat any more bacon. I am going to have to stop eating bacon. Pigs are just awesome and brilliant.