Self-recognition is the ability to recognizes owns self. Which can be tested using several methods with the mirror method not only being the first but the most typical test. The research on self-awareness in animals tells us about the evolution of a higher cognitive ability for instance Empathy humans make the choice to empathize or not however in animals that have self-awareness abilities they do not. Animals such as Elephants, Chimps, Dolphins, and in recent study Magpies, and crowns haven proven a higher intelligence in most avian species, perhaps because they have larger brains.
Although the mirror test was performed on Maxine and Patty the elephant they passed the self-cognition test by either trying to feel behind the platform the mirror was mounted on, kneeling in front of the mirror trying to reach underneath, and also movement test such as moving their ears with their truck towards the mirror. This information proved that elephants are self-aware although most animals have no clue what they look like. The elephant Happy took the test to a higher level when she passed the “Mirror Mark” test in which an unscented mark is placed on the head of the elephant and not only did she recognize herself, but she also recognized the mark on her head.
The study also shows that Magpies (a species of bird) passed the test and proven that some birds are not only more intelligent but are more intelligent than their cousins within the same species. When the magpie noticed a color dot on its breast it immediately tried to remove the mark by scratching and pecking at the mark as it knew it didn’t belong there versus the magpie with the black mark camouflaged in its breast didn’t even notice the mark and didn’t bother with it. Referenced video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRVGA9zxXzk).
Self-awareness has also been tested using other methods in animals primarily mammals with methods such as scent. Most mammals like canines (wolves, dogs), etc. use the scent test. A dog would recognize its own scent as well as another animals’ scent on or near its habitat. A domesticated dog such as my Pomeranian associates his path home from walks by scents and trails of urine that he leaves also insuring him he is headed in the right direction in route to home. Which brings me to the next method; Urine or “Yellow Snow” most animals use their urine to recognize themselves or others. Manly animals are self-aware, or shall I say self-conscious of their body enabling their physical abilities such as run, jump, and play, not to mention hunt and fight.
I believe that brain size plays a significant role in the self- awareness of animals as well as humans. The animals and species of birds that haven proven themselves self-aware typically have larger brains. When you think about the size of the brain in Elephants, chimps, and dolphins they are exceptionally large for the animal class. Although the Blue whales have one of the largest brains in the animal kingdom, there aren’t many study’s of how intelligent they are however scientists are aware that they are intelligent. With dolphins and Whales being in the same family of cetacean family. Many whale species are studied through dolphins simply because Whales are too large to hold in captivity to perform such tests. Although humans and chimps identify as the primate class chimps have also proven to be self-aware with the mirror test as well as the orangutan, however the gorilla has appeared to be unable to correctly decipher mirrored info of themselves. Most primates seem incapable of learning that their behavior is the source of the behavior depicted in the mirror.
Study also indicates that perhaps the gorilla is capable of the Mark test but because eye contact to gorillas are a sign of aggression, they hide from mirrors which may seem as though they are hiding from another gorilla; they may just misunderstand what they are seeing.
As for humans most human babies don’t become self-aware until about the age of 18-24 months, until then when placed in front of the mirror they just see another baby and new studies suggest this may also be the case for some monkeys, (https://www.popsci.com/monkey-mirror-test-self-aware/). The study suggest that some monkeys can be taught to pass the mirror test by demonstrating an understanding of self. In this case it doesn’t prove that monkeys are or are not self- aware it only indicates habits can be taught; does this make them intelligent? Yes! But it doesn’t mean that they are aware of self, just only conscious. In conclusion, I think there is a silver lining between self-awareness and self-consciousness. I don’t believe that if one group of animals can’t pass the self-awareness test it makes them any less intelligent it only measures a level of cognitive ability.
Written by Tino
-Brotherhood of Sincerity