Like humans, monkeys can recognize themselves in mirrors

Written by: Nairita Das
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Washington, Sept 30 (ANI): A new study has shown that a rhesus macaque monkey can recognize itself in the mirror and perform actions that scientists would expect from animals that have self-awareness.

The finding casts doubt on both the relevance of the mark test and on the existence of a definitive cognitive divide between higher and lower primates.

Luis Populin, a professor of anatomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducted the study.

In the standard mark test, a harmless mark is put on the animal's face, where it can only be seen in a mirror. If the animal stares at the mirror and touches the mark, it is said to be self-aware.

Rhesus macaques, a mainstay of medical and psychological research, have long failed the mark test.

But in Populin's lab, the monkeys that got the implants were clearly looking in the mirror while examining and grooming their foreheads, near the implant.

In some cases, the monkeys even turned themselves upside down during these examinations. In other cases, they grasped and adjusted the mirror to get a better view of themselves.

"If a young child, brain-damaged adult or animal was able to recognize and appreciate that the image in the reflection was really them, then it was interpreted as proof of being aware," said Christopher Coe, a primatologist and professor of psychology at UW-Madison.

"I think the mark test may not be sensitive enough to detect self-awareness in the lower species; they may have it, but in a different form, and it may show up in different situations, using different tests," said Populin.(ANI)

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