Studies in Social Cognition: From Primates to Pigs
The stressful effects that environments have on farm and laboratory animal welfare are likely to depend on how much animals understand of the behaviour and intentions of their conspecifics as well as on their understanding of their physical environment. However, studies on animal social
cognition have primarily focused on primates. Here, we report on our work on social cognition in domestic pigs. It focuses on the ability of domestic pigs to assess and use to their advantage the behaviour of conspecifics, and uses approaches pioneered in studies on primates. Our work has
shown that dominant pigs use the privileged knowledge of a subordinate to their own advantage in a competitive foraging situation. While such exploitative behaviour is likely to be based on rapid learning about the subordinate's behaviour, it is also possible that 'higher' cognitive abilities
such as visual perspective taking could be involved. Ongoing work uses an adaptation of the Guesser-Knower paradigm to test whether pigs are indeed capable of visual perspective taking.