Saturday, March 17, 2012

9 Animals that are Self-Aware


What is self-awareness? It's described in the Oxford English Dictionary as "conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires". Essentially it's a measure of intelligence. There are only a handful of creatures in the animal kingdom that are self-aware, as it requires a great deal of intellect.

The most common testing method for self-awareness in animals is the mirror test. A coloured dot is placed on the animal in a location they wouldn't normally be able to see (such as between their eyes or on their nose). The animal is then given a mirror, and if they realize that the dot is on their own face and then try to remove it, it shows that the animal is aware that the reflection is of themselves. Animals that fail the mirror test often just play or attack their reflection, you've probably seen your cat or dog do this.




So which animals have we determined to be self-aware? All of the following animals have passed the mirror test so far.


1. Chimpanzee


If any animal aside from humans was going to be self-aware, we would expect it to be our closest living relatives, the chimps. Like humans, they can only recognize themselves after a certain age (baby chimps and humans don't pass the mirror test).



2. Bottlenose dolphin


The first aquatic member of this list is the beloved bottlenose dolphin. I'm only aware of tests being done on bottlenose dolphins and orcas, but would be very interested in any tests done with other dolphin species.



3. Bonobo


Bonobo's are a more promiscuous, less violent cousin of the chimpanzee. Think of them as the hippies of the great apes. Since they are so closely related to chimps, it's no surprise that they pass the mirror test as well.

Yes, I censored the Bonobo's testicles. They were HUGE.

4. Elephant


Elephants are the only non-primate terrestrial mammal able to pass the mirror-test. They are arguably one of the most intelligent mammals in the world and should come as no surprise that they passed the test. I'm unsure if both the African and Asian elephant's have passed the test, or only one variety of elephant has.



5. Orca


The second aquatic member of this list is also a member of the dolphin family. I Wasn't able to find any videos of them taking the mirror test, but I did find the abstract to a paper in which the mirror test was given to orcas, false killer whales, and sea lions.



6. Gorilla


Gorilla's initially were thought to fail the mirror test. Further testing showed that since gorilla's found eye contact as an expression of aggressiveness, it was difficult for them to overcome the initial fear of looking themselves in the eye. Gorilla's such as Koko have proven that gorilla's do recognize themselves in the mirror once they get over the initial aggressive response.



7. Magpie (European)


Magpie's are the only bird known to have passed the mirror test. Not only are they the only bird, they are the only non-mammal species in the world that has passed the mirror test. They are closely related to crows, another bird well known for it's intelligence.



8. Orangutan


Watch the video under the Chimp and go to the 4:45 mark in the video to see the mirror test on an orangutan. Not surprised that they made it on the list either, as all the other great apes have.



9. Humans


Humans are an obvious example of an animal that can pass the mirror test. Babies tend to fail the test until they are 18 months old. You'll notice that all the great apes (humans, bonobo's, chimpanzee's, gorilla's, and orangutans) are mentioned on this list. An interesting note is that all non-great ape primates have failed the mirror test.

Some other animals that have exhibited abnormal levels of intelligence when exposed to a mirror, but have not passed the mirror test include pigeons and rhesus monkeys.





Want to see what animals that don't pass the mirror test do when exposed to a mirror? (funny video)


As I'm sure you've gathered from the above video, despite big cats being very intelligent animals, they still did not pass the mirror test.

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