, Volume 2, Issue 6, pp 493-509

Monkeys, apes, mirrors and minds: The evolution of self-awareness in primates

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access

Abstract

Almost two decades of research on the self-recognition capacity of non-human primates has produced evidence of intriguing phylogenetic differences. Not a single species of monkey has demonstrated the ability to recognize its own reflection in a mirror, despite some claims to the contrary. To date, only humans, orangutans and chimpanzees have passed objective tests of mirror-recognition. This paper reviews the methodology and evidence for self-recognition in primates along with the assumption that this ability is an indicator of self-awareness. The failure of the gorilla to master the task is discussed in some detail, along with an evaluation of anecdotal evidence of self-recognition by at least one gorilla. Also, the evolutionary backdrop of the primates is considered with reference to this unique behavior. Evidence supporting alternate, non-cognitive interpretations of self-recognition is assessed.