When you stand in front of a mirror, you recognize the image as a reflection of yourself. But what about dogs, cats, and other animals—how can we possibly know what nonhumans think about mirrors? In a series of studies, Gordon Gallup (1977) placed different species of animals in a room with a large mirror. At first, they greeted their own images by vocalizing, gesturing, and making other social responses. After several days, only great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans)—but not other animals—seemed capable of self-recognition, using the mirror to pick food out of their teeth, groom themselves, blow bubbles, and make faces for their own entertainment. From all appearances, the apes recognized themselves.
In other studies, Gallup anesthetized the animals, then painted an odorless red dye on their brows and returned them to the mirror. On seeing the red spot, only the apes spontaneously reached for their own brows—proof that they per- ceived the image as their own. Among the apes, this form of self-recognition emerges in young adolescence and is sta- ble across the life span, at least until old age. By using a similar red dye test (without anesthetizing the infants), developmental psychol- ogists have found that most humans begin to recognize themselves in the mirror between the ages of 18 and 24 months.
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