Reflections of Primate Minds: Mirror images strike monkeys as special

12:22pm, July 20, 2005

When a capuchin monkey looks at its own image in a mirror, something strange happens. The diminutive creature reacts not as if it sees a stranger, as many researchers had assumed. Instead, the reflection gets treated as a special phenomenon, generally eliciting curiosity and friendly overtures from females and a mix of distress and fear from males, a new study finds.

Capuchins' reactions signal an intermediate self-awareness that lies somewhere between seeing the mirror image as another individual and recognizing the reflected figure as self, according to a team led by psychologist Frans B.M. de Waal of Emory University in Atlanta.

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