Sheep learned to recognize photos of Obama and other celebrities, neuroscientists say

Sheep learned to recognize photos of Obama and other celebrities, neuroscientists say

Sheep learned to recognize photos of Obama and other celebrities, neuroscientists say

In a separate test, researchers wanted to see if the sheep would recognize human trainers they already know without any training like they underwent in the pen with the celebrity faces. 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.

"We've shown with our study that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and monkeys", she noted in a university news release.

Initially, the sheep were trained to approach certain images by being given food rewards. In his previous studies, sheep were better at discriminating faces when they were trained on familiar individuals, like a handler or a sheep from their own flock, he said.

The ability to recognise faces is one of the most important human social skills.

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


Sheep join the small group of animals shown to recognize human faces, including monkeys, dogs and horses.

"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. But little is known about their overall ability to process faces. Training involved the sheep making decisions as they moved around a specially-designed pen. Celebrity profile photos were randomly paired with images of one of 62 objects, all head-sized but lacking faces.

Even when a celeb's face was slightly tilted rather than face-on, the sheep still picked the image more often than not. The sheep were having two options in each step as a photo of celebrity face or another is of something else. I would say I recognize Barack Obama's face 100 percent of the time.

The sheep's accuracy dipped to about 66 percent - "a magnitude similar to that seen when humans perform this task", the team reported in the journal Royal Society Open Science. When a portrait of the handler was interspersed randomly, the sheep chose them seven out of 10 times.

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