Science

Scientists: Sheep recognize faces as people

Scientists: Sheep recognize faces as people

They were able to identify the faces of celebrities at different angles (although there was a decrease in performance of about 15%), demonstrating that they are not stupid.

The sheep eventually managed to identify the familiar face eight times out of every 10.

Researchers say this is without any prior training.

"We've shown that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and monkeys", Professor Jenny Morton, who led the study, said in a statement. Sheep now join other animals, including horses, dogs, rhesus macaques and mockingbirds, that are able to distinguish between individuals of other species.

Scientists would show each sheep two faces, one of which was the target celebrity, Sky News reported. "Sheep successfully recognized the four celebrity faces from tilted images". Then, during the trials, the sheep were released into a pen where they had to discern between the familiar faces and an object or an unfamiliar face. "Sheep recognise Obama from photo". On her first try, one sheep appeared taken aback by the new face in the mix.

For the initial training, the sheep received a food reward for choosing the face versus a blank screen.

In addition to being shown images of the celebrities facing forward, scientists also tested the animals' ability to recognize the faces in photographs taken from other angles.

Brad Duchaine, a brain scientist at Dartmouth College, doesn't find the sheep's ability surprising. The team is studying sheep with the genetic mutation that causes the disease. "Either the human face is similar enough to the sheep face that [it] activates the sheep face-processing system, or human-face recognition relies on more general-purpose recognition systems".


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