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Primates. 2015 Oct;56(4):317-26. doi: 10.1007/s10329-015-0488-9. Epub 2015 Sep 4.

Mirror self-recognition: a review and critique of attempts to promote and engineer self-recognition in primates.

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Department of Psychology, Kyoto University Graduate School of Letters, Yoshida-honmachi, Sakyo, Kyoto, 606-8501, Japan.
Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY, 12222, USA.


We review research on reactions to mirrors and self-recognition in nonhuman primates, focusing on methodological issues. Starting with the initial demonstration in chimpanzees in 1970 and subsequent attempts to extend this to other species, self-recognition in great apes is discussed with emphasis on spontaneous manifestations of mirror-guided self-exploration as well as spontaneous use of the mirror to investigate foreign marks on otherwise nonvisible body parts-the mark test. Attempts to show self-recognition in other primates are examined with particular reference to the lack of convincing examples of spontaneous mirror-guided self-exploration, and efforts to engineer positive mark test responses by modifying the test or using conditioning techniques. Despite intensive efforts to demonstrate self-recognition in other primates, we conclude that to date there is no compelling evidence that prosimians, monkeys, or lesser apes-gibbons and siamangs-are capable of mirror self-recognition.


Awareness; Great apes; Lesser apes; Mark test; Mirror-guided behavior; Monkeys; Self-recognition

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