Sheep can recognize people's faces from photographs

09 November, 2017, 01:26 | Author: Rosa Wright
  • A sheep. Smarter than it looks

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

The study was done by Cambridge University researchers, who said that they were able to train sheep to recognise faces of actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Emma Watson, former US President Barack Obama and BBC newsreader Fiona Bruce.

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. Past research has shown that horses, dogs, and even mockingbirds can discern between individuals of other species. After training, the sheep were shown two photographs - the celebrity's face and another face.

The sheep made the correct choice of celebrity or handler roughly 70 percent of the time on average.

To see if the sheep were just memorizing shapes, researchers did the same test, but with pictures in which the celebs' heads were tilted right or left. People recognise familiar faces easily, and can identify unfamiliar faces from repeatedly presented images.

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The sheep picked the celebrity's face eight times out of 10. On her first try, one sheep appeared taken aback by the new face in the mix. The photo recognition experiment gives scientists a way to track changes in the cognitive abilities of sheep with a gene mutation that causes Huntington's disease, an incurable neurodegenerative disease.

Face recognition is a critical social skill in humans, and we are able to identify a known person within milliseconds of seeing them. The scientists have been rewarded better for measuring the brain functions of sheep.

In addition, they also say the study could help in the research into Huntington's disease, as well as other human brain disorders that affect mental processing.

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

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