Study Finds Fish Can Recognize Human Faces

August 9, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. tell (things) apart / tɛl əˈpɑrt / (idiom) – to distinguish two people or things from one another
Example: It’s difficult to tell the twins apart because they are identical.

2. subtle / ˈsʌt l / (adj.) – very small and difficult to notice
Example: The temperature change was so subtle that nobody even felt it.

3. jet / dʒɛt / (n.) – a thin but strong stream of liquid from a narrow opening
Example: The child fired jets of water using the water gun.

4. accuracy / ˈæk yər ə si / (n.) – the state of being error-free
ExampleAccuracy is extremely important when working with money.

5. notable / ˈnoʊ tə bəl / (adj.) – worth being noticed or recognized
Example: The child’s level of intelligence is notable because of his age.


Read the text below.
A new study has revealed that archerfish, a type of tropical fish, can recognize human faces.

The study, published in Science Reports, was conducted by scientists from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and the University of Queensland in Australia. The scientists   were testing whether animals with simple brains have the ability to recognize human faces.

Study author Dr. Cait Newport said that telling faces apart is very difficult, because it requires recognizing very subtle differences among faces. The scientists chose to study fish because they lack the part of the brain that humans use to recognize faces.

For the study, the scientists used the archerfish’s ability to shoot jets of water upwards, which the fish uses to catch flying insects. The scientists repeatedly showed two faces to the fish. They trained the fish to shoot one of the faces with a jet of water by giving them food whenever the correct face was chosen. After the fish became familiar with the face, the scientists paired the photo with 44 other faces to see if the fish would still recognize it.

The scientists were surprised to discover that archerfish could distinguish the familiar face from the others with high accuracy. The fish were able to recognize it 81% of the time. This discovery is notable because it is the first time that facial recognition has been observed in fish.

Newport said that the study may suggest that facial recognition is learned and not innate, and that complex brains may not be necessary to recognize faces.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         For animals, what do you think is the advantage of recognizing human faces?
·         What do you think would happen if all animals learned to recognize human faces?

Discussion B

·         What do you think is the importance of facial recognition among humans? Discuss.
·         What are possible dangers of being unable to recognize faces?

August 9, 2016