October 30, 2006

Mirror, mirror, who's the most beautiful elephant?

According to a new study reported by the National Geographic, elephants are self-aware. In a series of self-recognition tests on three Asian elephants, researchers found that the elephants could recognize themselves in the 8'x6' mirrors placed in front of them. Joshua Plotnik, a graduate student in psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, said, "What we find most important is all three were showing self-directed behaviors; all three showed behaviors we recognize as behavior of self-recognition in a mirror." In addition, the researchers also conducted a mark test on the elephants.

In the mark test the researchers marked each elephant with a white X on one cheek and drew an invisible X on the other. The only way for the elephants to see the marks was by looking in the mirror. "If it cared about feeling [the mark], it would have touched either one. When Happy went to the mirror, she repeatedly touched the visible mark and never touched the invisible, sham mark," Plotnik said. While the other two elephants failed the mark test, the researchers note that less than half of chimpanzees tested have passed the mark test. The researchers add that elephants are constantly throwing dirt on their bodies and may have viewed the mark as inconsequential.

Plotnik and his colleagues noted that besides elephants, great apes, which include orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees, dolphins, and humans are the only other animals that can recognize themselves in the mirror in this manner.

Perhaps it's true of the elephants, the great apes and the dolphins, but I am not too sure about the humans anymore. Really, with Botox, Brow Lift, Ear Reshaping, Eyelid Surgery, Face Lift, Hair Replacement Surgery, Liposuction, Nose Surgery, Scalp Reduction, and what not, how could anyone have confidence in the humans' ability to recognize themselves in the mirror?

As for the two elephants failing the mark test, hey, I am not very interested in tattoos, either. I know I am taking a huge risk here on my reputation, but I couldn't help noting that, Happy, the third elephant that passed the mark test, was a female!

1 comment :
  1. Interesting!
    I always wondered if my dog could recognise himself in the mirror because he never barks at his reflection.
    And i totally agree with you about the recent fad for self transformation. I would be very uncomfortable if I could nt recognise myself in the mirror. I'd rather see my imperfect old self. Hey, one must at least be sure of ones own self.


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