Wednesday, 22 November, 2017

Sheep can recognise human faces

A sheep. Smarter than it looks A sheep. Smarter than it looks. Wolfgang Kaehler LightRocket via Getty Images
Derrick Tucker | 09 November, 2017, 01:24

The Cambridge University study published Wednesday also shows that sheep can recognize the faces of their human handlers without any prior training.

"We've shown with our study that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and monkeys".

These woolly creatures grasped this recognition skill after going through three scenarios of training.

Obviously the study focused on only eight domestic sheep, and it does mention some potential alternative interpretations of the data. Sheep now join other animals, including horses, dogs, rhesus macaques and mockingbirds, that are able to distinguish between individuals of other species.

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Tapping on the "correct" portrait would reward the sheep with food while choosing the wrong face would result in no food and a sound being played. Recognizing a person that is familiar from 3-D life requires "complex image processing", the authors say, because the sheep must translate their memory of the person to a 2-D picture. By the end of this experiment, the sheep chose a familiar celebrity's face over a stranger's face about 79 percent of the time on average.

The research isn't just a silly test, though. In these initial tests, the sheep were shown the faces from the front, but to test how well they recognised the faces, the researchers next showed them the faces at an angle. The scientists have been rewarded better for measuring the brain functions of sheep.

Sheep seemed to recognize the faces of Barack Obama, Emma Watson, and even Jake Gyllenhaal in a new study. Eight times out 10 the sheep picked the celebrity.

The animals' success rate fell by around 15 per cent when presented with the faces at a new angle, an amount researchers said was comparable to that seen when humans perform the task. "That means they can be useful models to help us understand disorders of the brain - such as Huntington's disease - that develop over a long time and affect [mental] abilities", Morton said.

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