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Anim Cogn. 2013 Nov;16(6):883-93. doi: 10.1007/s10071-013-0621-3. Epub 2013 Mar 24.

Successive and conditional discrimination learning in pigs.

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  • 1Emotion and Cognition Group, Department of Farm Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 7, 3584 CL, Utrecht, The Netherlands,


We studied the ability of pigs to discriminate tone cues using successive and conditional discrimination tasks. Pigs (n = 8) were trained in a successive discrimination Go/No-Go task (Experiment 1) to associate a Go-cue with a reward at the end of a runway and a No-Go-cue with the absence of reward. Latency to reach the goal-box was recorded for each cue-type. Learning of a conditional discrimination task was compared between low-birthweight (LBW, n = 5) and normal-birthweight (NBW, n = 6) pigs (Experiment 2) and between conventional farm (n = 7) and Göttingen miniature (n = 8) pigs (Experiment 3). In this active-choice task, one cue signalled a response in a right goal-box was correct and a second cue signalled a response in a left goal-box was correct. Cues were differentially rewarded. The number of sessions to learn the discrimination and number of correct choices per cue-type were recorded. In Experiment 1, four out of eight pigs showed learning on the task, that is, a higher latency to respond to the No-Go-cue, within 25 sessions. In Experiment 2, eight out of 11 pigs learned the discrimination within 46 sessions. LBW learners learned faster than NBW learners. In Experiment 3, all 15 pigs learned the task within 16 sessions. Göttingen miniature pigs learned faster than conventional farm pigs. While some methodological issues may improve the Go/No-Go design, it is suggested that an active-choice task yields clearer and more consistent results than one relying on latency alone.

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