Scientists: Sheep recognize faces as people

09 November, 2017, 01:40 | Author: Grady King
  • Sheep have a highly developed ability to recognise the faces of celebrities a new study has shown

Researchers at the University of Cambridge trained eight sheep to recognize the faces of four celebrities from photos shown on a computer screen.

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

They did this by rewarding the sheep food when they went to the picture of one of celebrities, and not an unfamiliar face.

Neurobiology professor and study lead Jenny Morton says, "Sheep are long-lived and have brains that are similar in size and complexity to those of some monkeys".

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The scientists showed eight female sheep portraits of a random person and a celebrity.

In fact, they could even recognise people when pictures were altered or were taken from a different angle, an ability only previously recorded in humans and primates.

"We chose the celebrities nearly randomly", Morton said, as long as there were lots photos to choose from. The team is studying sheep with the genetic mutation that causes the disease.

The sheep in the experiment have to decide which face is going to reward it with food.

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A sheep "model" of Huntington's disease has been bred, displaying similar brain and social changes as witnessed in human patients. And humans use faces for more than recognition, he wrote: "Our emotions, the open and instinctive emotions that Darwin wrote about, as well as the hidden or repressed ones that Freud wrote about, are displayed on our faces, along with our thoughts and intentions".

The woolly creatures could reliably pick out their human handlers without any previous photographic training at all, showing they can spot a familiar face. "Sheep successfully recognized the four celebrity faces from tilted images. I guess they have extended our work to show that sheep generalize viewpoints of the faces, which does require a rich representation of the identity". Maybe they just didn't like that the non-familiar lacked a reward, for example.

"We can't say for sure that the sheep understand that the pictures represent humans". The research could even help with research into neurological diseases.

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