Humans Can Recognize Themselves in the Mirror…But Can Birds?

When a woman looks in the mirror, she is able to recognize her own reflection. She may think she is having a great hair day or detect new wrinkles, but she is undoubtedly aware that she is looking at herself.

For years, scientists have been curious about self-recognition in other animal species. Chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins and orangutans are all able to self-recognize. In contrast, when researchers at the University of Goethe in Frankfurt, Germany focused on birds, they ultimately determined that flamingos, grey parrots, and jungle crows do not self-recognize when looking in a mirror and react as if they are seeing another member of their own species. Now, these same researchers are focusing on a “smarter” bird: the magpie.

Researchers placed five of these cognitively advanced birds into a two-compartment cage with a mirror on one side. Experimental birds were marked with a red or yellow dot on the back of the throat, while control birds sported a black dot. Overall, the birds reacted to the mirror aggressively, indifferently, and emotionally (one bird began performing mating rituals to his/her own reflection!). Three of the five birds exhibited some self-directed behavior, with two birds actually removing their red or yellow dot. Overall, lead researcher Helmut Prior and his colleagues determined that “‘magpies are capable of understanding that a mirror image belongs to their own body,’ but they do not claim that ‘the findings demonstrate a level of self-consciousness or self-reflection typical of humans.’”

In other words, magpies are able to recognize themselves but have no emotional attachments to their reflection. Couldn’t some of us benefit from this mentality?

To read the full article, click here.


About womaninthemirrorblog

Author of The Woman in the Mirror: How To Stop Confusing What You Look Like with Who You Are
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One Response to Humans Can Recognize Themselves in the Mirror…But Can Birds?

  1. curious cat says:

    that’s pretty cool. i wonder why, if they are not emotionally attached to their image, they would bother to remove the red dot that was placed on them? having never seen themselves before you’d think they wouldn’t know that it didn’t belong, they would have just known that something touched them there when it was placed on them. perhaps once seeing what was placed where they were touched they decided they didn’t like it and so removed it?

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