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Animal boredom - identifying symptoms and consequences

Project Leader
Hintze Sara, Project Leader
Type of Research
Basic Research
Winckler Christoph, Project Staff
Laschober Monika, Project Staff (bis 31.07.2022)
BOKU Research Units
Institute of Livestock Sciences (NUWI)
Funded by
Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF) , Sensengasse 1, 1090 Wien, Austria
Boredom describes a phenomenon that rests on a negative emotional state caused by a lack of external stimulation and is associated with dysfunctional behaviour and mental health problems in humans. But what about animals? Unlike research in humans, animal boredom has long been dismissed as a trivial concern. However, first studies indicate that animals do experience boredom-like states, expressed as an interest towards all kinds of stimuli, independent of their valence. What is yet unclear is whether barren and monotonous housing conditions experienced by many farm, lab, companion and zoo animals have similar effects, which would render animal boredom a highly relevant and prevalent welfare issue.
We aim to identify symptoms and consequences of boredom in a farm animal species, the pig, by systematically manipulating pigs’ housing environment and comparing pigs housed under barren and monotonous (BM), stimulus-enriched but monotonous (SE) and variation-enriched (VE) conditions. Moreover, we will compare subjects that experience a change from BM to VE conditions and vice versa. We will perform a series of cognitive tests, testing the hypotheses that pigs from the BM environment will i) react more strongly to stimuli of all valences, ii) be more motivated to work for a stimulus change in a consumer demand task, iii) will be more pessimistic as assessed in a judgement bias task, and iv) will perceive time as passing more slowly as investigated in a fixed interval task compared to pigs experiencing some form of enrichment (SE, VE) and that SE pigs will show responses intermediate between BM and VE pigs. Moreover, we will use quantitative and qualitative behavioural assays and will study the levels of stress hormones to detect behavioural and physiological differences between individuals from the different treatment groups. On top of this, we will study the relationship between certain personality traits and the proneness to develop boredom-like states.
Animal welfare;
Cognition; Boredom; Pig; Mood; Animal welfare; Behaviour;
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