GETTYCambridge University researchers were astonished to find that sheep have face-recognition abilities
09 November, 2017, 01:23
The former United States president was one of four celebrities used in a test of the woolly creatures' face-recognition skills, along with Harry Potter actress Emma Watson, British TV host Fiona Bruce and American actor Jake Gyllenhaal, the research team said.
Sheep can recognize human faces in photos at a level that's comparable to humans.
The study was done by Cambridge University researchers, who said that they were able to train sheep to recognise faces of actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Emma Watson, former US President Barack Obama and BBC newsreader Fiona Bruce.
"Sheep are long-lived and have brains that are similar in size and complexity to those of some monkeys".
As with some other animals such as dogs and monkeys, sheep are social animals and can recognise other sheep as well as familiar humans. "This current study adds an interesting new ability to the surprising wide repertoire of behaviour of sheep". But little is known about their overall ability to process faces.
In addition to being shown images of the celebrities facing forward, scientists also tested the animals' ability to recognise the faces in photographs taken from other angles. Training involved the sheep making decisions as they moved around a specially-designed pen.
In a specially equipped pen, sheep were shown pictures of people on two computer screens. Over time, they learn to associate a reward with the celebrity's photograph. However, their ability to recognize human faces from photos alone is novel. Given a choice, the sheep picked the familiar celebrity's face over an unfamiliar face the majority of the time, the researchers report November 8 in Royal Society Open Science. In this test, sheep correctly chose the learned face eight times out of 10.
They then challenged the animals again, this time by showing them a picture of the same celebrity, but using a new photo of their face tilted at an angle.
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