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Sheep a good bit smarter than previously thought - Input Junkie
February 9th, 2011
09:42 pm


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Sheep a good bit smarter than previously thought
Or, people more ignorant than they've previously noticed.
So Avanzo and Morton put seven female sheep through a series of increasingly tricky challenges. In one test the sheep walked into a pen that contained two buckets, one blue and the other yellow, with some food in the blue one. Over the course of a few trials they learned what was going on and always went to the blue bucket.

When the researchers put the food in the yellow bucket instead, the sheep changed their behaviour accordingly. They also mastered a subtler game in which the food was still in one of the buckets but the clue to its location was the colour of a cone placed nearby, not the colour of the bucket itself.

They don't seem to have tried one of those tests to see how much sheep are influenced by social pressure.

Bonus link: Three Bags Full, a mystery about sheep investigating who killed their shepherd.

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(2 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:February 10th, 2011 04:18 pm (UTC)
Sheep are natural followers, as far as I can tell--a friend I made in college, who raised sheep, told me that if one hops over a stick, and you remove the stick, the others will all hop in the same place. This seems like stupid behavior. So I wonder what kicks in thinking about the actual environment or what clicks it off.

Rats have been proven to be influenced by peer pressure. Group A was given, say, liver-flavored food that was tainted to make them slightly ill. After they were averse to that food, individuals were put in with group B, which was used to wholesome liver-flavored food and liked it; the rat from group A soon started eating the liver-flavored food. This makes sense to me, though, as the behavior of group B was a genuine guide to how the environment had changed. I wonder what would happen if one rat from group B was put in group A and wholesome instead of tainted liver-flavored food was given from then on.
[User Picture]
Date:February 10th, 2011 11:16 pm (UTC)
I watched sheepdog trials once and concluded that sheep are, if not generally smart, then very adept at what they care about.
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