Friday, October 01, 2010

are monkeys self-aware?

Video - monkey see, monkey know...,

The Scientist | Rhesus monkeys may recognize their own reflection in a mirror, indicating self-awareness--a trait traditionally reserved for humans, chimpanzees and orangutans and a topic of much debate among researchers, including Marc Hauser, professor of psychology at Harvard University and the recent subject of misconduct investigations.

The results, published in the September 29th issue of PLoS ONE, question the existence of a stark cognitive divide that separates higher primates from the rest of the animal kingdom.

"In most instances, monkeys do not show [self-awareness]," Christopher Coe, director of the Harlow Primate Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved in the work, said in an email to The Scientist. But the new study "indicates that rhesus monkeys can acquire this ability in the right setting and with the right tools."

For years, the Gallup mark test has been the standard method for assessing self-awareness. Researchers dye a small tuff of hair on an animal's head, and then give it access to a mirror. If the animal touched the mark while looking in the mirror, researchers concluded it understood the reflection to be its own. Humans over the age of two, chimpanzees, orangutans and potentially gorillas can conclusively pass this test. Monkeys, on the other hand, nearly always fail.