While some scientists are busy doing things like developing flying autonomous cars to ease Los Angeles traffic, other researchers are clearly out there working for the greater good. Case in point: A group of scientists proved that sheep can recognize famous faces, like Jake Gyllenhaal and Barack Obama.
Mashable reports that the University of Cambridge conducted a very important study (published in the Royal Society's Open Science) that put a flock of sheep to the not-so-terrible test of identifying famous faces. The study was looking at the importance of facial recognition and used sheep because they're known for sociability, making them pretty great test subjects for things like Huntington's Disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
To prove that sheep had facial recognition skills, a flock of eight sheep was trained to recognize celebrity faces. Researchers flashed two images to each sheep, one of a famous person such as Jake Gyllenhaal, Barack Obama, or Emma Watson, and one of a non-famous individual. Scientists rewarded correct answers with food and after the study period, the sheep correctly identified the famous face eight out of 10 times.
The study then extended to see if the sheep could recognize their trainers. After more studying, which probably didn't involve repeated viewings of Donnie Darko and Southpaw, the sheep identified their trainers seven out of ten times. They could even recognize the celebrities when the photos had Gyllenhaal and Obama's faces tilted slightly, so the study also showed that sheep could recognize humans from different perspectives.
"We've shown with our study that sheep have advanced face-recognition abilities, comparable with those of humans and monkeys," Jenny Morton, lead study author, said.
Sheep aren't the only animals that have this ability. According to the study, dogs, horses, rhesus macaques, and mockingbirds also exhibit what researchers call "cross-species paradigm," the ability to recognize faces across species. Past studies not involving Hollywood leading men or past leaders of the free world have shown sheep being able to distinguish between photos of other sheep and humans.
If there's ever a follow-up study involving humans gazing at Jake Gyllenhaal for snacks, sign us up.
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