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What Do Animals See in a Mirror?

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posted on May, 16 2014 @ 09:45 PM

originally posted by: Astrocyte
a reply to: MarsIsRed

That's not a very popular theory amongst ethologists and comparative psychologists. I've read a lot on this. But, I'm sure whatever I say will not satisfy your desire to want to believe that gorillas understand the complexities of human culture i.e possess the ability to read human social interactions, infer the appropriateness of humour, which implies a theory of mind of another species (albeit, within the genus).

This site isn't a science forum. Most people here aren't knowledgeable or self aware enough to realize how implausible it is to think gorillas, or chimps, or bonobos, or any non-human animal, possesses a human like awareness.

It's not your fault for not knowing, of course. But I do think it's important that I try to inject some sanity and clarity into romantic ideas of dr. doolittle conversing with animals who understand his awareness. Animals, each animal, needs to be understood in an ethological way. This means understanding their behaviors, their habitats, and the relationship between the two. In addition to this, you need to go into the brains of these creatures to see what makes each creature different from the other. This is the neuroscience side. ALOT of research has been done in this area. We've dissected the brains of various animals. We've put them under PET (positron emission tomography) fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). We know how they're wired (their nerve fibres and where they go) and also how they think. Based upon all this, we can say fairly confidently - with a higher probability - that human culture - and humor - is unknowable to any non-human mind.

I could and would love to go into the neurobiology and psychology of why this is. I would hope that you'd listen and consider what I'm writing. But based upon the last few posts, it seems people here, or at least most of them, are really emotionally focused on justifying this claim that a bonobo or gorilla possess human like cognitive powers, when its simply not the case.

You didn't read my post.

"I also agree with Chamberf=6 - trying to assign or compare human attributes when studying animal [intelligence] is totally the wrong approach. Their intelligence must be measured in ways appropriate for them, not us."

You're anthropomorphising, not I. You seem to be saying their intelligence is limited because it's different to ours. I'm saying it's special because it's different. Perhaps you meant to reply to a different post?

Incidentally , you also said primates don't show empathy, which is demonstrably wrong, both in captivity and in the wild.

But based upon the last few posts, it seems people here, or at least most of them, are really emotionally focused on justifying this claim that a bonobo or gorilla possess human like cognitive powers, when its simply not the case.

Not human like cognitive powers, just cognitive powers. That's very different.
edit on 16-5-2014 by MarsIsRed because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 16 2014 @ 10:21 PM
a reply to: MarsIsRed



ETA: I'm just usually more laconic .. but what you said ...or at least most of it.
edit on 5/16/2014 by Chamberf=6 because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 17 2014 @ 03:48 PM
When you put a canabalistic animal in front of a mirror does it strike at itself?

If it wants to eat itself it doesnt know what self is but if it does not want to eat itself it does understand,maybe the first time is excused as a learning experience,but after once then if the animal keeps attacking the reflection then it doesnt know it is itself,even animals know they cannot eat themselves.

A cannabalistic animal should keep attacking the mirror endlessly,unless it recognises itself and the fact that it cannot eat itself.

posted on May, 17 2014 @ 06:16 PM
I've seen a couple of situations like that. During one summer, on the street that I rented an apartment, there were some blossom trees and bushes. During that summer, there was a whole batch of butterflies that hatched. They played every day by sitting on walls, chasing each other up in spirals. Then when the weather became colder, there was all but one butterfly, desperately fluttering around and under bushes looking for someone to play with ...

Another time, I found a couple of small bugs in my bedroom in the far corner. Tiny little things the size of aphids, and the freakiest thing was that they were holding legs almost like holding hands.

I've played a similar trick to the mirror one with our cats, but using shadows instead of mirrors. When they would be sitting on a chair or pillow, they would cast a shadow with their pointy ears _/\_/\_ . I'd wiggle my fingers just so they would see the shadow just above their ears, and they would turn up and round to see what was there.

posted on May, 17 2014 @ 06:47 PM
I used to have a dog that would growl at himself when he saw himself in a mirror. He thought it was another dog!
On the subject of animal awareness, I believe animals have far more intelligence than most people think. Now that I own some cattle, I have found that they are intelligent and form long lasting relationships with other cattle and people. I have a cow and a bull that grew up together but were separated at 15 months old and had not seen each other for 5 years. They remembered each other because they sleep near each other at night and are never far away from each other. He will even let her eat form a bucket with him though he won't let anyone else. This in a herd of 26.
I have seen heaps of things with these animals that have really opened my eyes and it is really disturbing to think how we treat cattle. They think, feel happiness, love, fear, grief, remember and are curious and sometimes mischievious. They act dumb as a self- defence mechanism but they are not stupid. I don't think that they would see themselves in a mirror though.
I don't know if all breeds of cattle are the same but some seem to be more domesticated than others. Does anyone else have cows?

posted on May, 17 2014 @ 09:38 PM
a reply to: grumpy64

My cat comes to me when he needs things,he will come to my chair and softly paw my leg,no claws,when he has my attention he will give me a specific look and then he will calmly turn around and lead me to what he wants,it can be food,a bath,his toy stuck under something,a person outside near the doors,but he ALWAYS takes me to where the problem is,there is nothing random about it,he doesnt sit there and meow when his toy is stuck,he comes and gets help,and he doesnt get it by meowing,he gets it by asking for it another way and then by taking me and showing me.My cat eats corn on the cob,from on a plate,and he eats it in rows like we do,I have videos to prove it,he plays fetch like a dog,and he likes to be in the bathtub for his weekly baths,as a kitten he showered in the sink,I will not let him in the shower with me although he is game.

In fact the only time he meows is on is way to the Tub and then he mimics the word no,and this is a half hearted resistance because he loves it once he is in the water he just doesnt like being PUT in it before he is ready himself,ha haha.If you take care of an animals needs you will not hear them vocalise much,they do not need to.

I had a Cable guy come in when I was not home to do some work,as soon as I got home my Cat immediatly came to me,no helloes just the paw to the leg and then an assertive march right to the spot the Cable Guy had been working,THE EXACT SPOT,then he gently pawed the new cables,THEN he took me to the washroom,my money says the Cable Guy used it ha ha ha.

When anyone comes down the way he hears them long before I do and goes to his sentry spot by the door AFTER coming and giving me the Paw of Destiny.

I used to have cows,and yes I think they are self aware,all living things are,it is some crap pushed down our throats that it is any different.

My Cat goes out on the Deck to play and i do not allow him to go off of it,the first time he tried i taught him not to do it,by TALKING TO HIM AND SAYING NOOOO just before he bailed off the edge.

After the first time he tried and I verbalised the word NOOO,he understood 100% ,the first time i busted him and said NOOO he immediatly sat down on the spot to the word NOO because he understood it,and as soon as I went inside I watched him in the reflection of the Glass doors and he watched ME until i was out of sight and then he began to look over to the spot I had just busted him at,considering his options i am sure,well all i did was say from inside out of sight his name and BE A GOOD BOY,and immediatly he sat down on the spot again and looked into the doorway,after that he was good permanently,he understood his boundrys and that I was there wether he could see me or not,to reinforce him after that any time I saw him near the edge of his boundrys I simply said his name and asked him if he was being a good boy,I didnt TELL him to be a good boy i asked him,and every time bar none he would sit down immediatly when I asked him and give me the squinty eyes softly,If I CALL him a Bad Boy he will go to his room and sulk because he will feel bad,i have to be carefull because he reads my intonations and knows the difference when i am directing something right at HIM.

Cats use their eyes a LOT to communicate,and I am sure the squinting is how they communicate together at night silently.His reply to me AFTER he sits down nicely is always in Eye squints and they are intentional and consistant and he doesnt use them in many situations.It is a distinct reply he expects I understand.And I guess I do now.

I had a 31/2 legged Pig that would sit and play fetch in the country as well although you had to treat him to get him to give you the stick back he would just sit there and look at me and never just give it up for nothing.I could tug on it and he wouldnt let go,and if I didnt treat him he wouldnt just leave it for me and go away he TOOK the stick with him and kept ti,no treat no stick,simple and definatly with some thought given to it.I used to give him carrots as his fetch treats until he started taking his stick and dropping it inside the empty dog food bucket,and i got the point,he wanted Dog food more than carrots and I immeditly switched treats for him.But HE taught ME what he liked what his preference was,so he knew he was individual preferences are individual.I NEVER gave him Dog Food and he was NEVER out alone to get it himself ,but he ALWAYS saw the Dogs eating when i played with him.HE wanted what THEY had,he knew he was individual he wanted to try SOMETHING NEW.i guess in retrospect he also watched me make the dogs sit and behave when I fed them,I used to take turns letting each one eat first while the other two watched,fair and squarein a rotation they all learned fast,one eats and two sit and wait their turn and tomorrow it is the next fellas turn and they KNEW WITHIN A WEEK WHOS TURN WAS COMING UP and after a month they were in rotation and sometimes I would look across the Yard and see two of them sitting already and one messing around excited,the RIGHT ONES SITTING EVERY TIME.They knew they were individuals and even when it was their own turn and when it was each others turns.But who ever does this stuff?My parents thought I was nuts,I used to go catch magpie and Raven Chicks and teach them to talk then give them away as gifts.Ravens are heartbreaking because they bond with you quickly and are very very smart and curious,in fact they may be the smartest animal have ever seen.They can easily count and ask you for TWO when they want extra treats,I would put one treat in one open palm and show it to one of my favorite Ravens but keep TWO in my other closed fist,he would not take the one on my open palm,he would say the word TWO and peck my closed fist,as soon as he learned the word TWO opened the closed fist he was off to the races.The sucker would give up one to get two,but other animals couldnt rationalise anticipatory thoughts so far ahead.If the Raven will sacrifice one to get TWO he is self aware because he is SELFISH,ha ha ha.So Ravens can count and anticipate and be greedy intentionally,they are willing to sacrifice one to get two,that is awareness and not instinct.

I mean grumpy i used to shoot cats to prevent overpopulation in the country,with no thought about it,I never had time to spend with the cats,they werent special,but I found time for the Dogs and a Pig and Ravens,so really i guess we pick our favorites but they ALL are self-aware if you take time to interact with them.

Later in life I worked at a Major Citys Zoo,and I learned a lot more about many kinds of animals,to many storys to list here,except one to show you a funny thing,we had llamas at the Zoo and they were constantly fed cotton candy from people against the rules,so they had a bad habit of chasing people along their fenceline begging for Cotton Candy,well as an Employee when people were gone I had to work around them and they were aggressive because they were hooked on sugar,ha ha ha,so i used to shoo Big Daddy the Bully away all the time with my corn broom,i would yell at him and shoo him away from the fence so he wouldnt spit at me because I had no Cotton Candy for him so I was pro-active and sghooed him every time .Well 5 or 6 years later when I visited the Zoo with a Girlfriend I bet her on the way there that the same llama would remember me and come straight for me spitting like mad as soon as he saw me from a far far distance,she was doubtfull,well ha ha ha,we didnt get within 100 feet of his Compuond and he saw me and came thundering right to the fence ,we got it on video,man he was coming for me and I kept walking towards himas he was running towards me,and oh yes he remembered me and even ignored people who thought he was coming for Cotton candy to SPIT AT ME AGAIN,that sucker remembered me completely,and he did not like me,it was personal,and he has a sense of individuality all right.He passed over the Cotton Candy to get his vengence many years later.

I used to give the racoons sugar cubes for kicks to drive them nuts, ha ha ha,they would always wash and rinse them and they would dissolve but Racoons are very very smart so they would spend a great deal of time looking for the sugar cube they KNEW THEY HAD DROPPED.Even when I gave them a piece of fruit to break the spell and give them a break they would surely return to searching for the sugar cubes,ha ha ha.They didnt eat the cubes so it wasnt bad for their health.But it sure as hack drove them batty.

I went from Farmer who could raise wild ravens and teach them to talk and teach a Pig to sit and fetch and my dogs to wait their turns but ignored cats AND could kill with no bad feelings given what I thought was a good reason,to a Big game Hunter who killed no trophys here,to a non-hunting Wild Animal lover working at a Major Zoo to a baby Duck saving Pet loving Cat owner.Go figure huh?

Now that I am thinking about it the llamas never spit on anyone at first they ALWAYS followed and waitied till they were nearly out of fenceline and knew that you didnt have time to really give them Cotton candy and they would spit on people on the last leg of the fenceline.This means they were simply angry and vindictive ,if it were an instinctual action it would have happened much sooner,but the buggers didnt want to ruin their odds of getting the Cotton candy to soon!!

Now its all coming back to me,how about this,the Spider Monkeys used to be incredible,I watched one steal the keys off of a Trainers belt as he was leaving the cage area,then the Monkey actually reached through the bars and started trying to put keys in the padlock securing the chain ,he couldnt see what he was doing and he was more than able to get the job done he had awsome mirror dexterity,so he had to be self aware to visualise what he was doing in a mirrored backwards sense.

If you didnt talk or write and I put you in a cage like the Monkeys in their environment with their resources how would I know you were self-aware actually?

posted on May, 17 2014 @ 10:24 PM
a reply to: ATSmediaPRO

adddd give it up! You can only be-wroung about so many thimhgs!

posted on May, 19 2014 @ 12:05 AM
Here's something you guys might find interesting...

Research indicates that orangutans recognize themselves in mirrors almost invariably. But chimpanzees only recognize themselves in mirrors about 50% of the time. Yet chimpanzees are more intelligent than orangutans.

Often self-awareness is taken to be equivalent to intelligence (after all, one of the defining characteristics of the most intelligent animal we know of - Homo Sapiens sapiens is that it's self-aware) but maybe this is just our human conceit coming into play. After all, chimps are smarter than orangutans and yet they're less self-aware by comparison. Perhaps if there are aliens out there they aren't conscious beings at all. And what is the utility of self-awareness at all - is it more trouble than it's worth? Maybe...

posted on May, 20 2014 @ 01:56 PM

originally posted by: Tetrarch42
Here's something you guys might find interesting...

Research indicates that orangutans recognize themselves in mirrors almost invariably. But chimpanzees only recognize themselves in mirrors about 50% of the time. Yet chimpanzees are more intelligent than orangutans.

Often self-awareness is taken to be equivalent to intelligence (after all, one of the defining characteristics of the most intelligent animal we know of - Homo Sapiens sapiens is that it's self-aware) but maybe this is just our human conceit coming into play. After all, chimps are smarter than orangutans and yet they're less self-aware by comparison. Perhaps if there are aliens out there they aren't conscious beings at all. And what is the utility of self-awareness at all - is it more trouble than it's worth? Maybe...

It's possible, but generally unlikely, that certain animals have cognitive capabilities that we don't recognize because we don't have them. It's pretty clear that chimpanzees haven't ever worried about Platonic philosophy.

But potentially if dolphins were running the experiment, they'd note how very limited our acoustic perception is, and think we're pretty dumb since that's a huge part of their cognition. Potentially dolphins might be "faxing" sonar 'pictures' or concepts to one another in ways which we barely recognize, but dolphins have an enormous area of their cortex devoted to this. There might be a visual-acoustic 'sign language' with some high cognitive representation capacity which is totally alien to us.

It's also reasonably convincing to me that dolphins recognize humans as being intelligent, like they are, and interact with us in ways (playing) which are seen in cetacean-cetacean contexts and not cetacean-fish contexts. I think dolphins are very bored, most sea creatures other than cetaceans are dumb. On land, more intelligence, but more danger.

What theory of mind do dolphins have?
edit on 20-5-2014 by mbkennel because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 20 2014 @ 02:06 PM
a reply to: mbkennel

Not sure if puzzling over math equations or Platonic solids and possible self-awareness go hand in hand.

Actually pretty sure they don't since I can count on 1 finger people who give a crap about that.
edit on 5/20/2014 by Chamberf=6 because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 21 2014 @ 01:36 AM
a reply to: MarsIsRed

I don't know where signals got crossed but I wasn't "anthropomorphizing" anything. It's strange, though not surprising, that what I wrote was interpreted in that way.

Humans are humans, animals are animals. I'm not sure how much you guys read about the anatomy and functionality of non-human brains, but I've read many on the subject and I am absolutely enthralled about the subject. But that said, humans have the most impressive brains, simply because human have the most evolved abilities. As I said earlier, the uniqueness of the human organism is demonstrated by the brain-body ratio. This ratio is used to make sense of human abilities and the abilities of other animals. The brain-body ratio lines up pretty well with what we know of from the intelligence in other animals. But not perfectly. However, when you take into account Neuronal mass alone, things line up normally. People, for example, fail to keep in mind that a large chunk of cetacean brain mass is glia - fat cells. Glia perform functions ancillary to brain function: neurons are the ones doing the major work. Glia in sea creatures makes sense. Ocean is cold; glia insulates.

Incidentally , you also said primates don't show empathy, which is demonstrably wrong, both in captivity and in the wild.

Could you kindly reread what I wrote. I clearly stated that hominoids i.e chimps, gorillas, orangutans, humans, experience empathy. Again, I have done quite a bit of reading into this subject. I even suggested a recently published book that is well reviewed by some of the biggest names in comparative psychology (the study of animal minds in relation to human minds). So i'm mostly basing my opinion on the research he compiles in that book. Plus, I've always been interested in particular with canine intelligence and experience. There's a whole science to this. It isn't based upon "feelings" but upon sound analysis and observation, as well as experimentation. This is how we come to intelligent positions about things.

I think all animals have interesting minds and I do not in the least bit think their experiences should be belittled. Though at the same time, relative to our brains and our experiences, it's manifestly of a more exterior and unrefined quality.

A Dog, for example, has a larger smelling organ (snout) and so is able to pack more olfactory receptors. We have 6 million receptors. They have 250 million receptors. Consequently, their olfactory bulb - the area of the mammalian brain which processes smell - is 3 times the size of a humans olfactory bulb, despite their brains being 10 times smaller than ours.

This shows anatomically what is going on in the brain of a canine. They do not "see" the world, as we do, using our dominant sense of vision (the human brain has a huge area allocated to processing vision relative to most other animals). They see the world through smell. When we walk them, we often get frustrated when they do not "look" where were telling them to look, not realizing that dogs are experiencing the world via the sense of smell. They move about from side to side and this way and that way because the world of smell they react to is guiding them in these directions. When I walk my dog, I FOLLOW him, because thats what she wants. I care for her experience so I go out of my way, if I have to keep her on the leash, to pull me where she will.

That said, dogs, of course, probably dont have a sense of compassion, or think in the same conceptual categories that we do. They are sensitive to emotional contagion. They obviously feel a profound sense of loyalty to their owners, that almost reminds one of a child.

Just as their are different brains, there are different experiences. The gorilla brain, as you can see, looks very similar to a humans brain, but is much smaller in size. If you were to actually measure the fibres that run from one point of cortex to the next, you would see that a humans brain is about double the size. So what is all this extra neuronal-cellular space all about? Well, simply look at what gorilla do. This is what their brains are made to accommodate for: foraging for food, grooming, mating. There is no space here for human humour. This is likewise for chimps, bonobos, macaques, capuchins, and all other primates. The probability of them understanding even the rudiments of human humour, to sense the flow of conversation and pick up on a "joke", is so low that it boggles the imagination how anyone could possibly believe it. But seeing my main interest is psychology - of humans - I know that people often see things through the lens of an unflinching conviction that their position is true and anything antipathetic to that position is inevitably wrong: this is how strong and committed to a false position someone can be.

I'm not denying feelings to animals, as I said that everything which occurs between them is essentially feeling. And much of it is largely meaningful towards fulfilling their basic daily needs of homeostasis and social connection.

I just get irritated - its one of my pet peeves, I guess - when people attribute human abilities to animals. I suppose I can only expect an interesting conversation from someone who is as willing as I am to look at the details and nuances of an argument and position. Mine would lie between pure behaviorism - which denies animals conscious experience - and people who are antsy to prove that humans aren't anything special - when that is obviously not the case.
edit on 21-5-2014 by Astrocyte because: (no reason given)

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