1 Tahrcountry Musings: American black bears may be able to recognize from photographs things they know in real life

Friday, July 15, 2016

American black bears may be able to recognize from photographs things they know in real life

 Many animals show what is called “picture-object recognition”, in which they respond to pictures and their corresponding real-life objects in similar ways .A study which involved a black bear (Ursus americanus),   called Migwan and a computer screen has come up with the finding that American black bears may be able to recognize things they know in real life, such as pieces of food or humans, when looking at a photograph of the same thing. The study was led by Zoe Johnson-Ulrich and Jennifer Vonk of Oakland University in the US.
Migwan was first presented with two sets of objects new to her. Her ability to recognize these later, when presented with photographs including the items she had learned, was then assessed. In a reverse task, she was also trained on the photographs of two different sets of objects and tested on the transfer to real objects. Migwan was able to recognize, on a photograph, the visual features of objects or natural stimuli she already knew. It is an ability that bears share with hens, rhesus monkeys, pigeons, tortoises and horses.
Johnson-Ulrich and Vonk however caution that the ability of bears to recognize features of real objects within 2D-images does not necessarily mean they understand the representational nature of photographs. It is also still uncertain how well bears are able to recognize tangible objects which they first saw on a photograph before being introduced to the real thing. Further research using other bears is therefore needed to verify if the animals can transfer information from pictures to objects, too.

Details appear in the latest edition of journal Animal Cognition.

The above post is prepared from materials provided by Springer. 

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