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A modified mark test for own-body recognition in pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina)

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Abstract

Classic mirror self-recognition mark tests involve familiarizing the subject with its mirror image, surreptitiously applying a mark on the subject’s eyebrow, nose, or ear, and measuring self-directed behaviors toward the mark. For many non-human primate species, however, direct gaze at the face constitutes an aggressive and threatening signal. It is therefore possible that monkeys fail the mark test because they do not closely inspect their faces in a mirror and hence they have no expectations about their physical appearance. In the current study, we prevented two pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina) from seeing their own faces in a mirror, and we adopted a modified version of the classic mark test in which monkeys were marked on the chest, a body region to which they normally have direct visual access but that in the current study was visible only via a mirror. Neither monkey tried to touch the mark on its chest, possibly due to a failure to understand the mirror as a reflective surface. To further the monkeys’ understanding of the mirror image, we trained them to reach for food using the mirror as the only source of information. After both monkeys had learned mirror-mediated reaching, we replicated the mark test. In this latter phase of the study, only one monkey scratched the red dye on the chest once. The results are consistent with other findings suggesting that monkeys are not capable of passing a mark test and imply that face and body recognition rely on the same cognitive abilities.

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Correspondence to Sara Macellini.

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Macellini, S., Ferrari, P.F., Bonini, L. et al. A modified mark test for own-body recognition in pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina). Anim Cogn 13, 631–639 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-010-0313-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-010-0313-1

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