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Neuroscientists Say Sheep Recognizes Celebrity Images Including Obama
09 November 2017, 12:26 | Gerardo Harmon
Sheep graze in western Germany on Nov. 6
Researchers at the University of Cambridge trained eight sheep to recognize the faces of four celebrities from photos shown on a computer screen.
The animal would receive a reward of food for choosing the photograph of the celebrity by breaking an infrared beam near the screen displaying it.
This convinced the researchers that sheep had face-recognition abilities similar to ours. However, the ability of sheep to identify faces was unclear.
Even when a celeb's face was slightly tilted rather than face-on, the sheep still picked the image more often than not. After training the sheep again showed two images - a person studied celebrities and the unknown person - and eight times out of ten they came to the celebrities with all the enthusiasm.
The woolly creatures could reliably pick out their human handlers without any previous photographic training at all, showing they can spot a familiar face. My 2001 paper looked very carefully at this with a wider range of stimuli, more sheep and more conditions. "Sheep successfully recognized the four celebrity faces from tilted images". On her first try, one sheep appeared taken aback by the new face in the mix. The sheep didn't do as well but still passed, recognizing the celebrities about 68 percent of the time - a drop in performance comparable to that seen in humans performing the same task. 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.
Scientists found that sheep have facial recognition abilities akin to those of humans or monkeys, according to Jenny Morton, the lead scientist in the study.
Recognizing human faces is a skill you may take for granted-but you're also a human.
"Our study gives us another way to monitor how these abilities change, particularly in sheep who carry the gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease", she pointed out.
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