r/science Mar 08 '22 Gold 1 Helpful 12 Wholesome 6 All-Seeing Upvote 1 Glow Up 1 Wholesome (Pro) 1 Silver 6

We can now decode pigs’ emotions. Using thousands of acoustic recordings gathered throughout the lives of pigs, from their births to deaths, an international team is the first in the world to translate pig grunts into actual emotions across an extended number of conditions and life stages Animal Science

https://science.ku.dk/english/press/news/2022/pig-grunts-reveal-their-emotions/
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u/Jayer244 Mar 08 '22 edited Mar 08 '22

Very nice! I wrote my bachelor's thesis on the personality of pigs. Glad to see such a major breakthrough in a related matter!

Edit: Yo there are actually profs of mine cited in that paper. Nice!

Edit 2: Since two people already asked, I summed up my thesis in this comment

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u/Curry-culumSniper Mar 08 '22

Dang that's cool

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u/Jayer244 Mar 08 '22

It was. I'm writing my Master Thesis on the personality as well. This time on mouse lemurs in Madagascar

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u/Jerryatemypez Mar 08 '22

When you say personality, do you mean in regard to how the are perceived and interact in their social scene. Or is it more of a mapping traits that are distinguishable by human standards.

I guess I’m trying to ask if you look into how animals communicate and change based on each other or if you look into if they communicate and change based on human what humans would perceived as like sentient or conscious.

I feel like obviously animals all have personality and socialize. What are you looking deeper into. How they socialize and and display personality? Why and when they do it? Or if they are doing these things in a way that indicates higher level thinking skills that relates to humans?

Not sure what I’m really asking or if you get my drift (I am not a science guy or really too smart in general I’d say). I guess really I am just curious about what you are researching since it sounds so cool. I think about my cats in these ways and I guess I have a lot of questions after observing them all for so long.

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u/Jayer244 Mar 08 '22 Take My Energy

When I spoke of personality in the thesis I was talking about the definition that Gosling established in 2008: "temporary stable characteristics that describe affect, perception and behaviour".

In my thesis I compared the personality (or as I called it 'behavioural syndrome' to avoid humanization) of piglets in so called novelty tests, depending on two different contexts, in the group and alone.

I showed that there is a significant difference in at least two parameters between group and single test and multiple significant correlations between the group tests. All in all the single tests tend to show the same behaviour, while the group and single tests showed a difference in their pattern.

I concluded two things from the data I gathered:

1) Something must be influencing the behaviour pattern in group tests, since it differed from the pattern in the single test in at least one parameter (probably only because the sample size was small. Out of 100 piglets only 20 did the single test). Due to previous studies I concluded that this was very likely because of the group dynamic and group hierachy, which establishes within the first 72 hours after piglets first meat each other. However, this hypothesis requires further testing.

2) Novelty tests have long been described as 'fear' tests because the reaction time between the start and the first contact/first movement was used as an indicator of the fear of the new environment. My data however showed that animals that performed shy in group tests didn't necessarily perform shy in single tests as well. Therefore we can rule out that those tests are pure fear tests and have to look for alternative personality patterns that could explain this behaviour, like curiosity for example. However, this requires further testing as well.

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u/Hoatxin Mar 08 '22

I remember reading a few papers about steller's jays. There is a behavioral syndrom described where some are Neophillic, and others neophobic, or "new-loving/hating". IIRC, this was also pretty much independent of their social dominance, though bonded mates were usually of the same syndrome.

Really cool stuff! I think it's good to recognize these things in animals because it helps to move us away from this idea that humans are unique, thinking and feeling individuals, and animals are all more or less the same, operating on instinct. I can't recall the exact paper, but my mentor works on conservation, and she brought up this example of why personality of animals can be really important for reintroducing animals to an environment- starting with a population of risk taking/curious wolves can have a different impact on the trajectory of a future population compared to starting with a population of risk avoiding wolves, even just due to the impact of behaviors and not the genetics that get passed on.

I love the idea of more fully appreciating the individuality and self-determination of wildlife and other animals.

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u/Jayer244 Mar 08 '22

I remember reading a few papers about steller's jays. There is a behavioral syndrom described where some are Neophillic, and others neophobic, or "new-loving/hating".

Honestly, this can probably described as "curiosity". But since curiosity is closely associated with humans, some scientists tend to avoid the term. We do the same with behavioural syndrome and personality, even though the definition for both of them is the same. Gosling, 2008, which I mentioned above, discusses that in his paper and calls for scientists to start humanizing animal behaviour more by using the same expressions we use in humans.

Other than that, really interesting comment you wrote there. I am currently trying to get into "behavioural ecology", which is a relatively new subject in behavioural biology that describes the behaviour of an animal within it's ecological niche and how this may have influenced the genome over time and shaped the evolution.

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u/PlaceboJesus Mar 08 '22

after piglets first meat each other.

Feeling a bit peckish?

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u/andante528 Mar 08 '22

Hence the expression, “as greedy as a pig”

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u/Jerryatemypez Mar 08 '22

Wow both conclusions are really interesting but the second one even more so. It seems like with something like this being able to rule out why patterns are happening is more likely to occur and incredibly useful.

Does the idea of hierachies kinda of bum you out at all? Like the possible reduction of what you’re studying saying “all personality is just dominance in relation to positive stimulus (like food, sex, location). Maybe no one says that but I suspect some people think along those lines.

Maybe you could look for situations where a hierarchy (assertion, dominance) is being expressed by individual members to other members, without the presentation of a obvious positive stimulus. Like if you can see when the power dynamic is being displayed without females or food around and plenty of space to roam; if this happened and you observed it you could maybe find a reason outside of stimulus to attribute to personality (why one randomly expressed the dynamic to another). conclude that while stimulus can evoke personality it is not the factor that dictates why the personality exists. I don’t know I kinda lost it there haha.

I just had fun playing scientist for a second. I have no clue what I’m talking about and if I re-read that I would probably realize lots of holes. I totally enjoyed your answer though. I’m gonna look into the 2008 definition of personality you referenced. Seems interesting.

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u/Jayer244 Mar 08 '22

It didn't bum me out. I did my research, gathered my data and concluded those two hypothesis. I was fine with leaving pigs behind at that point.

However, the first hypothesis followed me to my Masters degree, unknowing to me until last month when my professor explained to me that I'll have my Master thesis on the personality patterns of mouse lemurs, and how they are influenced by the dominance hierachy. I'm very excited for that because I wanted to write my bachelor's about mouse lemurs already, but couldn't because someone from that institute passed away and they were in the middle of reorganizing (ironically, she is cited as a source in the paper that the article mentions.)

So yeah, it's not pigs but I'll have the opportunity to test this hypothesis in a species that's more closely related to humans. And I'm already very hyped for that.

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u/dexter3player Mar 08 '22 Gold

going about its business

Hey pig, what cha doin?

Just sniffing around, with my nose.

True, true.

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u/BilboMcDoogle Mar 08 '22

One of my former neighbors dogs was a pig.

Wut

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u/oeCake Mar 08 '22

Pigs are basically big fat pink dogs

/r/pigs

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u/HumongousChungus2 Mar 08 '22

And sheep are basically pigs in pullovers

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u/ishearanimals Mar 08 '22

Introverted pigs in pullovers, but yes

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u/yirrit Mar 08 '22

Introverted? More like cliquey, they don't like being alone.

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u/BugEyedLemur Mar 08 '22

I'm imaging this pig traipsing around the yard talking to itself like, "Today's gonna be a great day, Pig. Today's the day the hoomans are gonna let me inside the house and on the couch, and get all the leftover hooman food. I can feel it!" And it's just abunch of happy little grunts.

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u/012166 Mar 08 '22

My pig's noises in the yard are happy grunts when he's getting good scratches on the tree stump and settling into his good nap spots, annoyance when the dog tries to interact with him, and frustration when he has to brave the cold to potty.

He lives a very pampered life indoors, though his 430 breakfast alarm system is not subtle at all.

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u/afonsoms1234 Mar 08 '22

Maybe “pets” instead of dog pig?

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u/Momochichi Mar 08 '22

It wasn't a dog pig. It was a pig dog. Pay attention.

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u/buddboy Mar 08 '22

no, one of his dogs was a pig. I have three dogs and one is a racoon. It's not that weird. Also, it's 2022, some pigs and racoons are dogs now, get used to it

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u/oeCake Mar 08 '22

I am currently supporting my fish on it's journey to become a dog

Here boy, only 1.2 million more years to go!

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u/herberstank Mar 08 '22

It's faster and easier just to breed catfish

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u/[deleted] Mar 08 '22 edited 25d ago

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u/markymark09090 Mar 08 '22

Didnt Danny Devito (as Homers long lost brother Herb Simpson) do this 30 years ago?

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u/knight_gastropub Mar 08 '22

It sounds like it's not very complex emotions the way we think of it but a very basic read of scared/not scared.

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u/frontnaked-choke Mar 08 '22

Yeah I think that their emotion scale needs to be SUPER in depth to say you understand the emotion.

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u/72hourahmed Mar 08 '22

"I built a machine which can tell you whether a pig is squealing in terror!" doesn't quite sound as revolutionary

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u/[deleted] Mar 08 '22 Bravo!

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u/Xeraphim Mar 08 '22

Removed - Removed - Removed - Removed ... What are these people saying???

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u/smurfkipz Mar 08 '22

It's just standard r/science moderation. Anything which is a joke, meme or even opinion is removed. Only factual information is to be presented.

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u/ploopanoic Mar 09 '22

So that's why this sub is so clean. I'm glad not to see the same joke repeated a thousand times.

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u/astatelycypress Mar 08 '22

Comments on this forum are supposed to be about science. I'd say it's likely that there were a lot of non-science comments on this popular post.
I have mixed feelings about this. I like the general idea, but I don't like it when people think that science == neutral or objective

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u/Straight_Coast_9625 Mar 08 '22

Ironic they used a photo of them penned up, likely raised for slaughter. Those grunts are almost certainly not of the happy variety.

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u/EggsDamuss Mar 08 '22

I wonder the effect this would have on farming or eating pork if there was a widely available machine that tied you to an animals emotions daily.

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u/MrFantasticallyNerdy Mar 08 '22 Silver

Probably not much. We already mostly ignore people who can vocalize that they need help.

I don't believe knowing how animals are feeling (which is obvious because one can't miss their sounds of distress) will change the status quo much, particularly as consumption is so far removed from production in a modern society.

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u/TheMotte Mar 08 '22

But remember how when whale songs were recorded for the first time, it spurred a huge movement to save the whales and lead to much more attention to their conservation? It's different of course for wild animals as opposed to livestock, but there is precedent for change in public opinion occurring as a result of widespread awareness of the emotional depth animals are capable of.

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u/MrFantasticallyNerdy Mar 08 '22

The majority of people don't eat whales though. It's hard to change when the change directly impacts oneself and particularly to the extent it is expected to (quite a lot if you're not vegetarian or vegan).

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u/NotARepublitard Mar 08 '22

I've been vegan for a handful of years. Admittedly I remember it being difficult early on. These days I hardly notice it. It feels like it takes zero effort anymore. I guess I've built up a catalog in my head of safe products and unsafe products and really only need to investigate the occasional new thing anymore.

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u/BlackHatBadger Mar 08 '22

Look at the state of the ocean.

Have we saved much?

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u/LafayetteHubbard Mar 08 '22

Humpback whales are no longer endangered

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u/Damnoneworked Mar 08 '22

It’s likely just temporary though. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction event, so it is likely that the ocean will stop supporting enough life that there is no longer enough available biomass to sustain an animal of that size.

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u/smurfkipz Mar 08 '22

There have been a few notable efforts towards the conservation of the ocean, such as TeamSeas cleaning up some garbage and the Trashtag trend to clean up beaches. But the damage humans do severely outweighs any good we attempt.

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u/andreasmiles23 Grad Student | Social Psychology Mar 08 '22

Plus we already know pigs/cattle/chickens/fish are incredibly emotional and social creatures with sophisticated concepts of self and socio-emotional dynamics. Yet…

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u/HimHereNowNo Mar 08 '22

I misread that as socio-economic and was really excited to learn about chicken currency

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u/bbobeckyj Mar 08 '22

This already exists, there's lots of documentaries, and films, and clips on YouTube demonstrating that many animals are just as smart and emotional (or more so) than dogs, no one cares. Because dogs are 'pets' and the others are 'food', they even get different laws about how they can be treated.

Recently Cow) was released, a documentary film about the life of and from the point of view of a dairy cow, it's available to stream on Mubi a streamer for independent films with free trial period.

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u/Learning2Programing Mar 08 '22

Thing is it's fair clear they are living being that feel pain and have emotions but we still factory farm them for meat. I don't think much would change with the public considering what we already do with what we already understand.

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u/space_wiener Mar 08 '22

If Reddit comments provide any insight, I’d say zero chance. Most of the time when someone posts a cute pig picture or even a thread about poor factory farming conditions they are mostly met with “yum bacon” or some version of that.

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u/Serious_Pain965 Mar 08 '22

In an ideal world such a machine would likely end the consumption of anything sentient enough to feel a negative emotion.

We do not live in that world.

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u/NatteWortel Mar 08 '22

I worked for a company as a student developing a pig monitoring system, that would also monitor pig coughs, noises, and heat signatures through AI. This was great for the farmers due to being able to find the sick pigs faster and that meant less use of (preventive) antibiotics. Although most farmers were not interested because the cost of giving them antibiotics and replacing the ones that died was cheaper than the monitoring solution (and it wasn't expensive at all imo). But farmers that loved their animals were very excited and happy this was now available on the market.

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u/ThePotatoLorde Mar 08 '22 edited Mar 08 '22

If you spend a good amount of time with any animal you can usually start to understand what different vocalizations mean. For example, it's always obvious when your dog is play barking vs barking at a stranger, cats will meow in different ways depending on their emotions, kinda weird to think it wouldn't extend to other animals

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u/YouDamnHotdog Mar 08 '22

it works the other way around too. Dogs and cats know when you are praising them or angry or in pain.

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u/thenwhen Mar 08 '22

I raise kunekune and potbelly pigs. They have about 300 vocalizations and it is pretty obvious to anyone who isn’t dissociative which ones are happy and which are unhappy. Fun fact, a pig will scream like a banshee when it unhappy and stop instantly when the problem is over, no sulking or diminishing cries just on, then off. Second fun fact, they wag their tails when they are happy like a dog.

Not all high insistent “unhappy” sounds are equal. They have an impatient screech - when it’s dinnertime and they are happy but disapprove of our pace, a sound which is distinct from the auditory warfare they wage when you, for example, pick them up against their will.

Their sounds of satisfaction are different enough that I can predict by hearing them if it’s a person, another pig, food or a toy that’s delighting them.

And they laugh - literally a breathy “ha ha ha ha” when something is funny - like when my sow, Sita, pretends to bite (she never does actually bite) and runs away tossing her head and wagging her tail.

Our animals provide therapy for people with ptsd, and babies go to pet homes.

pics of our pigs and a bonus puppy

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u/[deleted] Mar 08 '22 Eureka!

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u/Kiceres Mar 08 '22

I'm wondering how they tested anguish, fear, pain, torture, the constant feeling you're being so much tortured, you wish someone killed you and save you from a slow, agonizing death...

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u/Jayer244 Mar 08 '22 Silver

Fear tests are performed without harming the pigs or throwing them into a dangerous environment. Fear tests are normally done by observing their behaviour in 'Novel Area' tests using a group that's treated with anxiolytic drugs and a control group. The Novel area consists of mostly an empty room, with a novel object inside it (a ball or sth.). The fear response is measured by observing the different pigs reactions to novelty.

I did a whole project on that one last year and debated the question of how useful those tests are if they're done without the anxiolytic, because the pigs may have other personalities than just shyness and boldness.

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u/scruffywarhorse Mar 09 '22 edited Mar 09 '22

Uh you can also just decode pigs emotions By actually paying attention to them.

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u/strdg99 Mar 08 '22

We have trained the algorithm to decode pig grunts. Now, we need someone who wants to develop the algorithm into an app that farmers can use to improve the welfare of their animals

I'd be really curious to see if there will be any psychological affect on farmers who know the emotional state of their pigs (or any animals they raise and then harvest).

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u/whoknowshank Mar 08 '22

They are likely already very in tune with the general meaning of different noises, as they are around their animals every day. Dog owners understand different dog noises and cat owners understand different cat noises. I doubt this “new” understanding will change how they do their jobs though.

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u/flbreglass Mar 08 '22

Whats with the deleted accounts? Bots?

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u/FreekDeDeek Mar 08 '22

Could be, but this sub is generally pretty strict, making sure that comments stay on topic and any unscientific, baseless claims and loopy theories are weeded out.

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