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Revisiting the mark test for mirror self-recognition

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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.

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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.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency.

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

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Correspondence to Tony Calmette.

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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.

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Calmette, T., Meunier, H. Revisiting the mark test for mirror self-recognition. Primates 64, 421–427 (2023).

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