, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 483–496

Not all chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) show self-recognition

  • Karyl B. Swartz
  • Siâan Evans

DOI: 10.1007/BF02381939

Cite this article as:
Swartz, K.B. & Evans, S. Primates (1991) 32: 483. doi:10.1007/BF02381939


When a chimpanzee is presented with a mirror it initially responds with social behavior directed toward the reflection. After several hours of exposure to the mirror the social behavior decreases and the mirror is used to guide self-directed responses to previously unobservable parts of the body such as the face. When a distinctively colored mark is unobtrousively applied to the chimpanzee's face and the chimpanzee touches the mark while observing itself in the mirror, this behavior is said to indicate self-recognition. Such self-recognition has been considered to be a robust phenomenon in chimpanzees, with self-directed and mark-directed behaviors both appearing in all socially-housed adult chimpanzees tested. In our study 11 chimpanzees were given mirror exposure and tested with the mark test. Only one of the 11 chimpanzees touched the mark during test, although several showed self-directed behavior using the mirror to guide their movements. Such experimental factors as mirror size, position, or temporal spacing of the mirror exposure, and such subject variables as age, sex, previous social experience, and subspecies were insufficient to explain the difference between the present and previous findings. We suggest that there are individual differences in mirror recognition behavior in chimpanzees, and that further consideration of the factors contributing to this phenomenon, including the development of additional tests for self-recognition, is needed.

Key Words

Self-recognitionSelf awarenessRecognitionChimpanzees

Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karyl B. Swartz
    • 1
    • 2
  • Siâan Evans
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre International de Recherches Médicales de FrancevilleGabon
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyLehman College of the City University of New YorkBronxUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of StirlingStirlingScotland