Sheep Can Recognize Obama's Face

Sheep Can Recognize Obama's Face

The Cambridge University study published Wednesday also shows that sheep can recognize the faces of their human handlers without any prior training. The scientists, in turn, were rewarded with better ways to measure sheep brain function. These sheep have learned to select the portrait of former president out of a set of pictures.

Researchers trained eight sheep to identify celebrity faces from photographs. Out of the all the shown photos, the sheep chose celebrities Jake Gyllenhaal, Barack Obama, Emma Watson, and United Kingdom television journalist Fiona Bruce.

These woolly creatures grasped this recognition skill after going through three scenarios of training. Then sheep had just 15 seconds to reach the picture and trigger the infrared sensor.

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A sheep correctly picking the photo of Emma Watson.

"I'm sure it will surprise other people, but to me this is all well known", said Jonathan Peirce, who studies visual systems at the University of Nottingham in Britain. My 2001 paper looked very carefully at this with a wider range of stimuli, more sheep and more conditions. When a portrait of the handler was interspersed randomly, the sheep chose them seven out of 10 times. "And there is no reason to think that they would recognize other animals but not humans".

For the study, researchers trained the sheep to recognize faces of Emma Watson, Barack Obama, Fiona Bruce and Jake Gyllenhaal.

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Humans and monkeys can now extend a warm welcome to sheep for joining us in being able to recognize human faces from photographs.

The study feeds into ongoing research on treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's, in which face perception can be impaired. During one set of trials, they were made to discern between their handler (whose photo they'd never seen before) and a new face. Maybe they just didn't like that the non-familiar lacked a reward, for example.

Peirce said it was hard to say whether sheep associate photos of faces with people. "There is a transgenic sheep model of Huntington's disease, created in Australia by collaborators", she said.

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