W4 Plotnik et al. (2006) - Self-recognition in an Asian...

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Self-recognition in an Asian elephant Joshua M. Plotnik* , Frans B. M. de Waal* , and Diana Reiss §¶ i *Living Links, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322; § Osborn Laboratories of Marine Sciences, New York Aquarium, Wildlife Conservation Society, Brooklyn, NY 11224; and Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027 Contributed by Frans B. M. de Waal, September 13, 2006 Considered an indicator of self-awareness, mirror self-recognition (MSR) has long seemed limited to humans and apes. In both phylogeny and human ontogeny, MSR is thought to correlate with higher forms of empathy and altruistic behavior. Apart from humans and apes, dolphins and elephants are also known for such capacities. After the recent discovery of MSR in dolphins ( Tursiops truncatus ), elephants thus were the next logical candidate species. We exposed three Asian elephants ( Elephas maximus ) to a large mirror to investigate their responses. Animals that possess MSR typically progress through four stages of behavior when facing a mirror: ( i ) social responses, ( ii ) physical inspection (e.g., looking behind the mirror), ( iii ) repetitive mirror-testing behavior, and ( iv ) realization of seeing themselves. Visible marks and invisible sham- marks were applied to the elephants’ heads to test whether they would pass the litmus ‘‘mark test’’ for MSR in which an individual spontaneously uses a mirror to touch an otherwise imperceptible mark on its own body. Here, we report a successful MSR elephant study and report striking parallels in the progression of responses to mirrors among apes, dolphins, and elephants. These parallels suggest convergent cognitive evolution most likely related to complex sociality and cooperation. cognition u mirror self-recognition u theory of mind u intelligence u empathy M irror self-recognition (MSR) is exceedingly rare in the animal kingdom (1). Attempts to demonstrate MSR out- side of the Hominoidea (i.e., humans and apes) have thus far failed (2), with the notable exception of one report on dolphins ( Tursiops truncatus ) (3). Animals that demonstrate MSR typi- cally go through four stages: ( i ) social response, ( ii ) physical mirror inspection (e.g., looking behind the mirror), ( iii ) repet- itive mirror-testing behavior (i.e., the beginning of mirror un- derstanding), and ( iv ) self-directed behavior (i.e., recognition of the mirror image as self) (3, 4). The final stage is verified if a subject passes the ‘‘mark test’’ by spontaneously using the mirror to touch an otherwise imperceptible mark on its own body (1). Application of the mark is recommended only if the preceding
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W4 Plotnik et al. (2006) - Self-recognition in an Asian...

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