Mirror self-recognition and its relationship to social cognition in chimpanzees
Chimpanzees and humans are capable of recognizing their own reflection in mirrors. Little is understood about the selective pressures that led to this evolved trait and about the mechanisms that underlie it. Here, we investigated the hypothesis that mirror self-recognition in chimpanzees is the byproduct of a developed form of self-awareness that was naturally selected for its adaptive use in social cognitive behaviors. We present here the first direct attempt to assess the social cognition hypothesis by analyzing the association between mirror self-recognition in chimpanzees, as measured by a mirror-mark test, and their performance on a variety of social cognition tests. Consistent with the social cognition hypothesis, chimpanzees who showed evidence of mirror self-recognition in the mark test tended to perform significantly better on the social cognition tasks than those who failed the mark test. Additionally, the data as a whole fit the social cognition hypothesis better than the main competing hypothesis of mirror self-recognition in great apes, the secondary representation hypothesis. Our findings strongly suggest that the evolutionary origins of great apes’ and humans’ capacity to understand ourselves, as revealed by our capacity to recognize ourselves in mirrors, are intimately linked to our ability to understand others.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Krachun, C., Lurz, R., Mahovetz, L. M., Hopkins, W.D. (2019). Mirror Self-Recognition and Its Relationship to Social Cognition in Chimpanzees. Animal Cognition, 22(6), 1171-1183.