Stories tagged capuchin monkeys

Nov
16
2005

Psychologists at Emory University in Atlanta have been studying how capuchin monkeys see themselves by showing them their own reflections.

The scientists assumed that the monkeys would behave as they would when meeting a stranger. Instead, females react with curiosity and friendly gestures, while males act distressed and fearful. Psychologist Frans B.M. de Waal thinks the monkeys realize that the reflections are special, even if they're not quite sure who they're looking at.

Know thyself

When you look in the mirror, you know the person you're seeing is you. You're "self aware." (Scientists consider an animal self-aware if it touches a painted spot on its own face when it looks in a mirror.) People, apes, and dolphins recognize themselves. Most monkeys, though, don't get it.

In a series of experiments, the Emory scientists put capuchin monkeys into test chambers where they had one of three experiences: they saw a monkey of the same sex that they'd never met before, they saw a familiar monkey of the same sex, or they saw their own reflections. Reactions to the other monkeys were predictable, but the reactions to the mirrors were new. And the Emory scientists think they prove that the capuchins have reached some intermediate level of self-awareness, somewhere between seeing their reflections as other monkeys and recognizing themselves.