Wednesday, 22 November, 2017

Sheep recognize faces of celebrities

A sheep. Smarter than it looks A sheep. Smarter than it looks. Wolfgang Kaehler LightRocket via Getty Images
Heather Davidson | 09 November, 2017, 01:22

"Together these data show that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and non-human primates".

Next, the sheep were taken into the barn and shown two photos.

Over a series of four training sessions, the sheep's ability to choose a familiar face, represented by one of the four celebrities, over a completely unfamiliar face improved.

The study trained eight sheep to recognize four celebrity faces: Jake Gyllenhaal, Barack Obama, Emma Watson, and Fiona Bruce (it was a British study).

It had been known that sheep can recognize familiar faces of other sheep and of humans.

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The sheep would nuzzle up close to their chosen screen, where they would trigger an infrared sensor releasing a treat, if they had chosen correctly.

To challenge the sheep even further, scientists showed them the same celebrities in photos captured from a different, tilted angle. The sheep could even recognize images of faces shown at an angle, though their ability to do so declined by about 15 percent - the same rate at which a human's ability to perform the same task declines. The results were published Wednesday in the Royal Society's Open Science journal as part of research looking into cognitive ability and neurodegenerative disorders, like Huntington's disease, which can impair people's ability to recognize facial emotion. When a portrait of the handler was interspersed randomly, the sheep chose them seven out of 10 times.

The research's lead author Prof Jenny Morton said, "What we did is ask whether a sheep could learn to recognise someone from a photograph".

Morton and her team are now studying sheep that have been genetically modified to carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington's 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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