What mirror self-recognition in nonhumans can tell us about aspects of self

Biology and Philosophy 19 (1):111-126 (2004)
Research on mirror self-recognition where animals are observed for mirror-guided self-directed behaviour has predominated the empirical approach to self-awareness in nonhuman primates. The ability to direct behaviour to previously unseen parts of the body such as the inside of the mouth, or grooming the eye by aid of mirrors has been interpreted as recognition of self and evidence of a self-concept. Three decades of research has revealed that contrary to monkeys, most great apes (humans, common chimpanzees, pygmy chimpanzees and orangutans but not the gorilla) have convincingly displayed the capacity to recognize self by mirrors. The putative discontinuity in phylogeny of the ability suggests the existence of a so-called cognitive gap between great apes and the rest of the animal kingdom. However, methodological and theoretical inconsistencies regarding the empirical approach prevail. For instance, the observation of self-directed behaviour might not be as straightforward as it seems. In addition, the interpretation of mirror self-recognition as an index of self-awareness is challenged by alternative explanations, raising doubt about some assumptions behind mirror self-recognition. To evaluate the significance of the test in discussions of the concept of self this paper presents and analyses some major arguments raised on the mirror task.
Keywords Biology  Methodology  Mirror  Primatology  Recognition  Science  Self
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1023/B:BIPH.0000013249.23475.1f
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,661
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Theresa S. S. Schilhab (2015). Why Animals Are Not Robots. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 14 (3):599-611.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

166 ( #12,383 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

5 ( #147,227 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.