, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 55-62
Date: 24 Jun 2008

Capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) respond to video images of themselves

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Abstract

Many studies have used mirror-image stimulation in attempts to find self-recognition in monkeys. However, very few studies have presented monkeys with video images of themselves; the present study is the first to do so with capuchin monkeys. Six tufted capuchin monkeys were individually exposed to live face-on and side-on video images of themselves (experimental Phase 1). Both video screens initially elicited considerable interest. Two adult males looked preferentially at their face-on image, whereas two adult females looked preferentially at their side-on image; the latter elicited lateral movements and head-cocking. Only males showed communicative facial expressions, which were directed towards the face-on screen. In Phase 2 monkeys discriminated between real-time, face-on images and identical images delayed by 1 s, with the adult females especially preferring real-time images. In this phase both screens elicited facial expressions, shown by all monkeys. In Phase 3 there was no evidence of discrimination between previously recorded video images of self and similar images of a familiar conspecific. Although they showed no signs of explicit self-recognition, the monkeys’ behaviour strongly suggests recognition of the correspondence between kinaesthetic information and external visual effects. In species such as humans and great apes, this type of self-awareness feeds into a system that gives rise to explicit self-recognition.