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What does boredom mean for farmed pigs? The effects of environment and personality on negative valence as a symptom of boredom-like states

Year: 2022

Helen Zobrist
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria

Supervisor(s): Dr Sara Hintze and Professor Christoph Winckler


In humans, the state of boredom is increasingly identified as being associated with psychological, social and physical health problems. Boredom is presumed to be caused by both a boredom-eliciting situation, characterised by barrenness and monotony, and each individuals’ vulnerability to feel bored. But what about non-human animals, eg farmed animals that are often housed under barren and monotonous conditions? Do such housing conditions also cause boredom-like states in non-human animals and, if so, does personality play a role in the development of boredom-like states? The simple answer is: We do not (yet) know. Even though boredom is a highly aversive experience (at least in humans) and barren as well as monotonous housing conditions are highly prevalent in farmed animals, boredom-like states and their possible consequences on animal welfare have hardly been studied.
My MSc project forms part of a bigger project in which symptoms and welfare consequences of pig boredom are studied. The project will look into the effect of both housing conditions and pig personality on boredom-like states in pigs. We will focus on investigating potential symptoms and welfare consequences of animal. We aim to distinguish boredom from other negative psychological states such as depression and apathy by investigating pigs’ reactions to stimuli of different valence as done in studies on mink. Moreover, we will investigate the effect of boredom on affective valence (i.e. mood), hypothesising that bored pigs are more pessimistic (as assessed in a Judgement Bias Task) as well as on time perception, hypothesising that time drags when pigs are bored (as assessed in a Time Perception Task).

In my project, I will focus on the effect of housing conditions (and a switch of housing conditions, see below) as well as pig personality (and their interaction) on affective valence. The overall output of my project is to get a deeper understanding of the effects of housing conditions and personality on boredom-like states in pigs.