Study shows sheep can recognize celebrity faces

"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".

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.

Sheep can recognize human faces in photos at a level that's comparable to humans.

For the study, researchers trained the sheep to recognize faces of Emma Watson, Barack Obama, Fiona Bruce and Jake Gyllenhaal. 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. 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. Picking the celebrity earned a sheep a food-pellet reward.

By the end of this experiment, the sheep chose a familiar celebrity's face over a stranger's face about 79 percent of the time on average.


The research isn't just a silly test, though.

To challenge the sheep even further, scientists showed them the same celebrities in photos captured from a different, tilted angle. On her first try, one sheep appeared taken aback by the new face in the mix. "Sheep recognise Obama from photo".

Brad Duchaine, a brain scientist at Dartmouth College, doesn't find the sheep's ability surprising. "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".

"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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