Photo: Migwan, a female American black bear, showed in tests that she was able to identify pictures linked to objects she had previously see. Credit: Roy Lewis Bears might be able to recognize photographs of objects they know from the real world, according to a study out of Oakland University published in the journal Animal Cognition.
The results came courtesy of a female American black bear named Migwan, who was shown sets of objects previously unfamiliar to her and then assessed for her ability to recognize those object in computer images.
The tests are part of a larger study on the welfare of bears that live in captivity, the hope being that bears may one day be able to, in essence, rate their surroundings and indicate how they feel about, say, their food or other people or other bears.
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For the study, Migwan was shown objects of unique shapes and colors – toy shovels, horseshoes, and footballs, for example – and then tested for her ability to recognize them later in computer touch-screen imagery.
The result of Migwan's labors?
"American black bears are capable of picture-object recognition," study authors Zoe Johnson-Ulrich and Jennifer Vonk wrote. "They can transfer learning with real objects to photographs of those objects presented on computer screens."
Migwan shares this capability, the scientists said, with hens, rhesus monkeys, pigeons, tortoises and horses.
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And what about the reverse? Could Migwan look at photographs and then recognize them in real-world objects?
"We found less evidence for the ability to transfer learning from novel objects presented first as pictures and then as real objects," the researchers wrote. They say further research would be needed, in order to see if the animals could link pictures to objects.
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