Mirror, Mirror On the Wall, Who’s the Fairest Monkey of All?

Like people, great apes including chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos and gorillas have shown they recognize themselves in a mirror. But monkeys? Not so much. Monkeys have consistently failed to display self-recognition in mirror experiments. But new research by Chinese scientists showed that rhesus monkeys can be taught to recognize that the face staring back at them from the mirror is their own. "Mirror self-recognition is an indication of self-awareness, which is a hallmark of higher intelligence in humans," said neuroscientist Neng Gong of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai, who led the study published on Thursday in the journal Current Biology. "Monkeys normally cannot recognize themselves in the mirror, presumably due to the lack of capability in self-awareness," Gong added. "Here, we showed that monkeys can actually learn to acquire this capability by training, suggesting that the monkey brain has the basic 'hardware' but needs appropriate training to acquire the 'software' to achieve self-recognition." The monkeys were placed in front of a mirror. A visible red light dot was then projected on various face locations using a laser device powerful enough to cause the monkeys a sensation of irritation. After two to five weeks of training, the monkeys had learned to touch a laser dot or a dye mark on the face while looking in the mirror, indicating self-recognition.

Monkey see, monkey learn


--- Reuters