Mood and personality interact to determine cognitive biases in pigs

Biol Lett. 2016 Nov;12(11):20160402. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0402.


Cognitive bias has become a popular way to access non-human animal mood, though inconsistent results have been found. In humans, mood and personality interact to determine cognitive bias, but to date, this has not been investigated in non-human animals. Here, we demonstrate for the first time, to the best of our knowledge, in a non-human animal, the domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus), that mood and personality interact, impacting on judgement. Pigs with a more proactive personality were more likely to respond optimistically to unrewarded ambiguous probes (spatially positioned between locations that were previously rewarded and unrewarded) independent of their housing (or enrichment) conditions. However, optimism/pessimism of reactive pigs in this task was affected by their housing conditions, which are likely to have influenced their mood state. Reactive pigs in the less enriched environment were more pessimistic and those in the more enriched environment, more optimistic. These results suggest that judgement in non-human animals is similar to humans, incorporating aspects of stable personality traits and more transient mood states.

Keywords: animal welfare; cognitive bias; mood; personality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Male
  • Personality*
  • Reward
  • Sus scrofa / psychology*