Mirror test  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The mirror test is a measure of self-awareness developed by Gordon Gallup Jr. in 1970, that was based in part on observations made by Charles Darwin. While visiting a zoo, Darwin held a mirror up to an orangutan and recorded the animal's reaction, which included making a series of facial expressions. Darwin noted that the significance of these expressions was ambiguous, and could either signify that the primate was making expressions at what it perceived to be another animal, or it could be playing a sort of game with a new toy.

Gordon Gallup built on these observations by devising a test that attempts to gauge self-awareness by determining whether an animal can recognize its own reflection in a mirror as an image of itself. This is accomplished by surreptitiously marking the animal with two odourless dye spots. The test spot is on a part of the animal that would be visible in front of a mirror, while the control spot is in an accessible but hidden part of the animal's body. Scientists observe that the animal reacts in a manner consistent with it being aware that the test dye is located on its own body while ignoring the control dye. Such behaviour includes turning and adjusting of the body in order to better view the marking in the mirror, or poking at the marking on its own body with a limb while viewing the mirror.

At first, even animals that are capable of passing the mirror test respond as the orangutan described by Darwin. In fact, young children and people who have been blind from birth but have their sight restored initially react as if their reflection in the mirror was another person.

Animals that pass

Animals that have passed the mirror test include: all of the great apes (bonobos, chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas and humans), bottlenose dolphins, Orcas, elephants and European Magpies. Initially, it was thought that gorillas did not pass the test, but there are now several well-documented reports of gorillas (such as Koko) passing the test.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mirror test" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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