Monday, January 12, 2015

Rhesus Monkeys Can Learn to See Themselves in the Mirror

For humans and apes, vanity comes naturally -- homo sapiens and their hairier ancestors both automatically recognize themselves in the mirror. The same can't be said for monkeys. But new research suggests rhesus monkeys can be taught mirror recognition. Scientists say their discovery is likely to help them further understand the neural origins of self-awareness... Scientists have tried to determine whether monkeys could develop mirror recognition before, but nothing seemed to work. In the new study, researchers shined a laser on the monkey's faces -- a mild irritant intended to spur the specimens into using the mirror to their advantage. After several weeks of training the monkeys began recognizing their face and laser in the mirror, moving their hands to the spot of the laser and then often smelling their fingers -- suggesting a recognition of themselves in the mirror. Once the behavior was learned, many of the monkeys were able to use the mirror in a variety of other unprompted ways in order to investigate other parts of their bodies. more

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