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Am J Primatol. 2007 Sep;69(9):989-1000.

Mark tests for mirror self-recognition in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) trained to touch marks.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, American University, Washington, DC 20016, USA.


In Experiment 1, three capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) were exposed to a mirror in their home cage for 3 days and then given food treats for touching orange marks located on the surface of an experimental chamber. Following training, a mirror was added to the chamber to see if the monkeys would use it to guide non-reinforced contacts with an orange mark on their foreheads that was only visible as a mirror reflection (mark test). Two monkeys touched the head-mark more often with the mirror present than absent, but no mark touches were emitted while looking at the mirror. In Experiment 2, the monkeys were rewarded for touching orange marks on their bodies that were directly visible, followed by another head-mark test. Again, two monkeys touched the mark more often with the mirror present than absent, but these contacts were not emitted while looking at the mirror. Since facing the mirror while mark touching was not required for reinforcement during training, Experiment 3 further tested the possibility that increased mark touching in the presence of the mirror during Experiments 1 and 2 was the result of a memorial process. For this, a final, novel mark test was conducted using an orange mark on the neck that was only visible as a reflection (Experiment 3). No monkeys passed this test. These are the first mark tests given to capuchin monkeys. The results are consistent with the finding that no monkey species is capable of spontaneous mirror self-recognition. The implications of sequential training and mark testing for comparative evaluations of mirror self-recognition capacity are discussed.

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