Posts tagged with "Frontiers in Psychology"

Hogging the joystick: Pigs can play computer games, study shows

June 11, 2021

Pigs have been taught to play video games by using a joystick—in a study that confirms their high intelligence, reports The Independent UK.

Indeed, it’s long been known that pigs are smarter than dogs, and are believed to be  the sixth-most intelligent creature on Earth—after ravens and crows, chimpanzees, elephants, gorillas, and dolphins.

Early 20th-century studies found that they could solve multiple-choice problems; and later studies showed they could learn to obtain light, produce extra heat for their enclosures; and acquire feed.

For the latest study researchers at Purdue University trained four pigs to control a cursor on a monitor, using their snouts to move the joystick in return for rewards. They used two micro pigs called Ebony and Ivory; and two Yorkshire pigs, called Hamlet and Omelet, to test the animals’ abilities.

Writing in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, Professor Candace Croney of Purdue University, and Sarah Boysen said they showed the animals a video game in which they had to use a joystick to maneuver a cursor until it collided with one of four wall-like structures on screen, making a sound—at which point the pig received a food treat.

“Although food rewards associated with the task were likely a motivating factor, the social contact the pigs experienced with their trainer also appeared to be very important,” the researchers wrote.

Even when the equipment failed and there were no treats, the pigs still made correct responses, being rewarded only with “verbal and tactile reinforcement from the experimenter,” they said.

“This may have been due to the strong bond the pigs developed with the experimenter during training.”

Croney said: “Potentially there may be more that pigs are capable of learning and understanding and responding to than we have previously envisaged.”

Philip Lymbery, global chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, said the study highlighted a need for the animals to be treated better. “This latest research shows pigs are even more intelligent than we ever thought, yet we still keep the majority of pigs in the most appallingly deprived conditions on factory farms,” he said.

Research contact: @independent

Status envy: We covet social position more than wealth

May 25, 2021

New research has found that we experience more intense status envy than “stuff” envy. That is, our sense of envy is stronger when the object of that resentment is better off socially (for example, in terms having more influence or respect), rather than better off materially (for example, by having more money or a nicer house), Psych News Daily reports.

The study was conducted by researchers from Hungary, France, and the United States—and has been published in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology.

As the researchers explain, humans evolved in complex social environment—and we, therefore, feel the need to respond to social cues about our status relative to others. The emotions that underlie these social dynamics—such as envy—serve to “increase the stability of social hierarchies and avoid costly disputes,” the authors write.

To participate in the study, the researchers recruited about 400 Hungarians via social media. Most were women, and their average age was 32.

The researchers divided the participants into two groups:

  • They instructed one group to think of a friend or acquaintance who was better off than they were materially.That might include having more money, more financial security, or a nicer home.
  • The second group was asked to think of someone who was better off socially—for example in terms of receiving more respect, admiration, or influence.

Both groups also were asked to respond  on a scale of one to ten to a series of statements designed to assess their levels of benign and malicious envy. “Malicious envy” drives people to reduce someone else’s status, whereas “benign envy” motivates people to increase their own status. Then they were asked whether they believed that the envied person’s advantage was “deserved” or “undeserved.”

Overall, Psych News Daily reports, the researchers found that the participants had significantly higher envy ratings for social status than they did for material wealth.

What’s more, respondents were more likely to experience benign envy when they felt the envied person’s advantage was deserved. Likewise, they were more likely to experience malicious envy if they felt that advantage was not derserved.

Demographic factors such as gender, age, and education did not play a significant role.

Research contact: @PsychNewsDaily