Few species have the ability of self-recognition in front of a mirror and among them we can count humans, chimpanzees, dolphins, Asian elephants and magpies. A recent study suggests that monkeys might make it to the list as well. A team of specialists take pride in having managed to teach rhesus monkeys to perceive themselves in the mirror. But some scientists still doubt the monkeys might understand their mirrored self. The findings of the research were published in detail in the journal Current Biology on January 8.
According to Neng Gong, a neuroscientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and co-author of the study, monkeys’ brains are equipped for self-recognition but they have to be trained to do so. If monkeys do have this ability, the finding would have significant ramifications as mirror self-perception is considered to be an indication of empathy.
For the purpose of the study, Gong and his group put monkeys before a mirror and pointed a strong laser light on the creatures’ faces making them slightly irritated. Afterwards, they pointed a dimmer laser light which had no disturbing impact on the monkeys. Following two to five weeks of training, the seven monkeys in the research figured out how to touch the laser spot in the mirror. The analysts likewise made the monkeys watch video mirror pictures of their face with a virtual stamp on it, and the creatures touched the mark. The specialists reasoned that the creatures had passed the mark test.
Designed by Gordon Gallup Jr, evolutionary psychologist at the State University of New York at Albany, the test is considered the etalon in terms of assessing self-recognition abilities in animals.
In the initial version of the test the animals are marked with a smell-free paint which can only be identified visually by looking in the mirror. If the animal points to it in the mirror than it means it is capable of self-recognition. From big apes to elephants, numerous diverse species have passed the test. But monkeys always failed to pass the paint test so far.
In the new study, the vast majority of the monkeys displayed self-coordinated attitudes, for example, touching the imprint and afterward taking a gander at it or sniffing their fingers. Also, they used the mirrors to inspect parts of their bodies they couldn’t regularly observe.
The monkeys’ ability to recognize themselves went on for no less than one year, Gong said. Monkeys that were not taught and trained by the specialists did not pass the mark test and couldn’t learn the ability from other monkeys either.
However, not all researchers trust the new findings. Gallup, who created the test, called the study “imperfect” on the grounds that it only exhibited that the creatures could be trained and not if they comprehended what they were doing. The specialists involved in the study noted that the discoveries may give hope to individuals with mental inabilities who are occasionally not able to perceive themselves in the mirror, for example, people with Alzheimer’s. But Gallup strongly believes that Gong’s monkeys were simply indiscriminately repeating what they were trained. He added that he is positive that rhesus monkeys have no self-awareness.
Image Source: International Business Times