Wednesday, November 1


A recent test at the Bronx zoo showed self-awareness for elephants: Researchers tested put an 8-foot-square mirror on a wall and found that the elephants "exhibited behavior typical of other self-aware animals. They checked out the mirror, in some cases using their trunks to explore what was behind it, and used it to examine parts of their bodies. Of the three, Happy then passed the critical test, in which a visible mark was painted on one side of her face. She could only tell the mark was there by looking in the mirror, and she used the mirror to touch the mark with her trunk."

While this is welcome proof of another animal's capacity for self-cognition, we're still in the dark ages for understanding animal intelligence: "Awareness can be tested by studying whether the animal recognizes itself in a mirror," the article notes. "Many animals fail this exercise miserably, paying scant attention to the reflected image." So because we've come up with one test that we think measures self-awareness, an animal that doesn't behave as we does must by definition lack such awareness. Uh huh. Just as these elephants lacked it before we tested them.

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