Pessimist Or Optimist? For Pigs, It Depends On Their Moods And Personalities


A new study has found that pigs have cognitive biases, very much like humans. The study was conducted by researchers from University of Lincoln, and tested a total number of 36 pigs. As part of the trial, the animals were given some bowls with chocolate and others with coffee beans in two fixed locations.

The results of the study were published in the journal Biology Letters and pointed out that the animals, known for their intelligence, actually undergo the same mechanisms in their decision making processes as humans do, depending on their personality, mood and general views.

Pigs Have Cognitive Biases, Just Like Humans

The optimistic animals were the ones who looked for a third bowl, which might not have contained any treats and was positioned in the middle of the two. Behavior associated with positive or negative thinking was found in the animals, according to the study.

Personalities will determine whether a person will react positively or negatively given a specific situation, with an optimist responding positively in a proactive attitude, and a pessimist that will have a different reaction depending on the mood.

The decision-making processes that caused pigs to react a certain way are similar to humans. This means that the animals have their own cognitive biases. This idea was never studied in animals previously, and the new tests revealed some unexpected results.

Inducing Optimism And Pessimism In Pigs

The pigs were trained to identify the bowl with chocolate, as well as the one with coffee beans in the other corner of the room. Both the bowls were sugarcoated in order for the animals not to actually sniff either of the bowls until reaching them.

As part of the next step of the study, the scientists have tried adding extra bowls between the two corners of the room - slightly closer to either of the two. Before undergoing the tests, the animal were subjected to different living conditions.

A part of the animals were accommodated in economy lodgings, and the other in deluxe conditions. The latter had more room and a thicker, more comfortable layer of straw.

Depending on their personalities, pigs who were more proactive would reach for the third bowl, without being sure of the treat. On the other hand, the animals who had reactive personalities were more likely to look for the third bowl if they had been living in the deluxe lodgings.

The study proves that environment affects naturally pessimistic animals, making them more susceptible to mood: the pigs who were provided a more comfortable lodging will be more prone to searching for a third bowl, while the ones in the basic lodging will act reactively. However, the ones with an optimistic personality, will seek for the third bowl regardless of their living conditions and mood. 

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