Animal minds

Coffee!! Sheep “can recognise human faces” – BBC

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Further to “Why doesn’t anyone confront researchers about made-up claims about animal cognition?,” from Paul Rincon at BBC:

Cambridge University researchers were able to train sheep to identify the faces of actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Emma Watson, former US President Barack Obama and BBC newsreader Fiona Bruce.

After training, the sheep chose photos of familiar faces over unfamiliar ones significantly more often than not.

It shows that sheep possess similar face recognition abilities to primates. More.

<em>Teapot</em> Cobalt Blue How about this?: Sheep could learn to identify any human body part if they needed to. That doesn’t mean they understand what faces mean to humans. But much science writing about animal minds today seems to depend on maintaining just this type of confusion.

See also: “Why doesn’t anyone confront researchers about made-up claims about animal cognition?”. If animals thought rationally, they would consciously know the abstractions that always elude them: death, hope, justice… We’d notice that they did. We wouldn’t be doing casuistical tests or offering casuistical arguments. Or offering anecdotes or moralizing.

Claim: Whales and dolphins have rich ‘human-like’ cultures and societies

Intelligence tests are unfair to apes

Are apes entering the Stone Age?


What can we hope to learn about animal minds?

4 Replies to “Coffee!! Sheep “can recognise human faces” – BBC

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Any body part? That’s not the point. At least among mammals and birds, and probably reptiles as well, the concept of the face is universal. All of these vertebrates make eye contact with all other types, as a way of reading and communicating intentions. Everyone knows WHERE the face is, and everyone knows WHAT constitutes a face.

  2. 2
    aarceng says:

    If they repeat the experiment with 4 abstract symbols would the sheep learn to recognize those?

  3. 3
    News says:

    aarceng at 2, they would likely learn whatever they needed to learn for a food reward if recognition only is required. Much greater feats are routine.

  4. 4
    LocalMinimum says:

    So did sophisticated visual recognition systems evolve early or often in vertebrate lineages?

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