Skip to main content
Log in

Revisiting the mark test for mirror self-recognition

  • News and Perspectives
  • Published:
Primates Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Despite half a century of research, few species have exhibited convincing evidence of mirror self-recognition. Several methodological objections to Gallup’s mark test have been raised, but empirical studies have shown that methodology does not adequately explain why most species fail to recognize themselves in mirrors. However, a potential issue was constantly overlooked: mirror ecological relevance. Although reflective surfaces in nature are horizontal, previous studies indeed used vertical mirrors. The present study revisited the mark test to address this issue in an experiment with capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella). Additionally, a new procedure based on sticker exchange was designed to maximize mark attractiveness. Subjects were first trained to exchange stickers, habituated to being head-touched, and exposed to a horizontal mirror. Then, their mirror self-recognition was tested by surreptitiously placing a sticker on their forehead before requesting them to exchange stickers. None of the monkeys removed the sticker from their forehead in the presence of the mirror. In line with previous studies, this result suggests that capuchin monkeys lack the ability to recognize themselves in mirrors. Nonetheless, this modified mark test could prove useful in future studies, including investigation of interindividual variability of mirror self-recognition in self-recognizing species.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Similar content being viewed by others

Data Availability

No further data are associated with this article.

References

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the University of Strasbourg and Silabe for supporting this research and providing animal care, and A. Panter and J. Lazarus for logistical help.

Funding

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

Conceptualization: TC Methodology: TC HM Investigation: TC Supervision: HM Writing–original draft: TC Writing–review and editing: HM TC.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tony Calmette.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This non-invasive research complied with French legal requirements for the use of animals in research and EU Directive 2010/63/EU on the welfare of animals used for scientific purposes. As subjects voluntarily participated and were not food or water deprived, no ethical approval was required.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Calmette, T., Meunier, H. Revisiting the mark test for mirror self-recognition. Primates 64, 421–427 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-023-01065-w

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-023-01065-w

Keywords

Navigation