Weller, J. E., Turner, S. P., Futro, A. et al. 2020. The influence of early life socialisation on cognition in the domestic pig (Sus scrofa domestica). Scientific Reports 10(1), 19077.
Previously, the benefits of early-life socialisation on later-life social development have been reported in pigs. Here we investigated the effect of pre-weaning socialisation on the later-life cognitive ability of pigs using a range of techniques. Pre-weaning, 101 piglets had access to a neighbouring pen from ~ 15 days of age and interacted with non-littermates (socialised). An additional 89 piglets remained isolated within their home pen (controls). After weaning, 100 individuals were selected for a range of cognitive tests including a food reward T-maze test, reversal learning T-maze test, a social preference T-maze test, and a puzzle box test. Performance during the food reward test was not influenced by treatment. Treatment effected improvement over the course of the reversal learning test, with controls showing a significant decrease in trial duration after the first two trials. During the social preference test, socialised pigs spent significantly more time in the presence of larger stimulus pigs than controls and were quicker to leave the middle of the maze, suggesting improved social skills. Neither sex nor treatment was observed to influence pig's ability to solve the puzzle box. Thus, overall, evidence from the social preference test suggests an effect of pre-weaning socialisation on aspects of social cognitive development.