Facial recognition and memory is innately human; being able to recognise faces is something fundamental to our ability to communicate and survive. Familiar faces are easy to recognise and humans can learn to identify unfamiliar faces from repeatedly presented images: for example, have you ever met President Trump? Probably not, but you can certainly recognise his face.
A recent study from the University of Cambridge found that this ability to recognise faces is more than just a human phenomenon. Researchers from the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience trained eight sheep to recognise the faces of celebrities like Barack Obama, Emma Watson and Fiona Bruce. Initial recognition training involved sheep receiving a reward of food by breaking an infrared beam near the screen showing a celebrity photograph. The initial tests then presented two images: one showing the celebrity and one showing a stranger. The results showed that the celebrity was picked eight out of ten times. When the faces were shown at an angle, the sheep’s performance dropped by about 15%, comparable to that seen when humans perform the same task. Sheep were also seen to recognise photos of their human handlers without any pre-training, and were observed to do a ‘double-take’ before choosing the correct image.
The implications of these results are that, at least in the scientific domain, sheep can be useful models to help us understand disorders of the brain such as Huntington’s disease. Beyond research, Professor Jenny Morton who led the study said that “anyone who has spent time working with sheep will know that they are intelligent, individual animals.” Perhaps then there are wider implications on the way in which sheep will be both understood and perceived in years to come.
Philosophy, Psychology and PPE applicants may want to look into the implications of how our perception of animal intelligence may influence the social and economic landscape. Natural Sciences (B) and Medicine applicants may want to explore how studies like this enhance our ability to understand human diseases.
- Cambridge’s Supplementary Application Questionnaire After you have submitted your UCAS application to apply to... Read more >
- Cambridge Language Test overview If you’re applying for Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge,... Read more >
- Download a Physics Personal Statement “Over the past few years I have become gradually more... Read more >
- Is Oxbridge right for me? Have you asked yourself why you are planning to apply... Read more >
- Law Reading List Cambridge Law and Oxford Law reading lists and recommended reading. Read more >
- Outside reading: the key to a good application When it comes to writing your personal statement and preparing... Read more >
- Social and Political Sciences Reading List We’ve brought together a wide-ranging bibliography to help those applying... Read more >
- Download a Medicine Personal Statement 2 “Further work experience has highlighted some of the demands and challenges... Read more >
- Economics & Logic Puzzle: ticket touts We asked top Economics blogger Resham Kotecha to challenge us... Read more >
- Access and Financial Support at Oxbridge As two of the world’s top universities, both Oxford and... Read more >
- Oxford or Cambridge? Many applicants know that they want the best, but when... Read more >
- How is the BMAT marked? The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is marked significantly differently from... Read more >
- 30 Real-Life Oxford and Cambridge Interview Questions The Oxford and Cambridge interviews are notorious for having academically... Read more >
- March’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- Information on choosing a course at Oxford or Cambridge “Perhaps it is because Oxbridge encourages more ‘traditional’ A Level... Read more >
- UCAS: A How To Guide The process of applying to university through UCAS can seem... Read more >
- BMAT mini mock paper & answers With over 90% of applicants now preparing for the admissions... Read more >
- Course By Course Fact Sheet This helpful guide sets out by course what grades you... Read more >
- LNAT overview If you’re applying for Law at Oxford you will need to sit... Read more >
- International Application Calendar Keeping on top of the various deadlines and decisions when... Read more >
- February’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- July’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- Personal Statement Solution: Brainstorm Sheet Writing your personal statement may just be the grimmest part... Read more >
- Taking a Gap Year There are a number of advantages to taking a gap... Read more >