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Research Article

Mirror-Induced Behavior in the Magpie (Pica pica): Evidence of Self-Recognition

  • Helmut Prior mail,

    To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: Prior@psych.uni-frankfurt.de

    Affiliation: Institut für Psychologie, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

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  • Ariane Schwarz,

    Affiliation: Institut für Kognitive Neurowissenschaften, Biopsychologie, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany

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  • Onur Güntürkün

    Affiliation: Institut für Kognitive Neurowissenschaften, Biopsychologie, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany

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  • Published: August 19, 2008
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060202

Reader Comments (3)

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disagree

Posted by fkalich on 05 Aug 2011 at 17:57 GMT

"It further proves that the neocortex is not a prerequisite for self-recognition." It proves nothing, especially when there is a lack of interest in the mirror (as with 7 of my 8 cats, although one of them has always taken an interest, jumped up on the kitchen sink so she can stare at herself). The key question is whether a bird has any appreciable consciousness, or is in effect a biological robot. Most neurologists will say that species other than mammals (who have a neocortex) are zombies for all practical purposes. This is based on the fact that in humans, consciousness in all of its forms will be selectively eliminated due to damage to a particular part of that organ. For example, a person with damage to area 17 might claim to be totally blind, but still be able to catch a ball, and point out light sources. An animal does not need consciousness to function, and give the illusion of consciousness. This test in no way proves that these birds have any consciousness at all, it will be possible to program a robot at some near point to act in this fashion, that does not mean that the robot will have consciousness. It is possible that one day it will be shown that birds are conscious entities, but I doubt it, and this test does not prove that in the least way. It is just a relic from behavioral psychology predating developments in neurological research today, and a misinterpretation.

No competing interests declared.

RE: disagree

Tritium3h replied to fkalich on 18 Apr 2012 at 04:34 GMT

fkalich, did you read the complete article...or even the conclusions? The authors clearly state the following:
"Altogether, results show that magpies are capable of understanding that a mirror image belongs to their own body. We do not claim that the findings demonstrate a level of self-consciousness or self-reflection typical of humans. The findings do however show that magpies respond in the mirror and mark test in a manner so far only clearly found in apes, and, at least suggestively, in dolphins and elephants."

The specific goal of this mirror response test on Magpies was to determine if these birds had the capacity for self-recognition. Self-recognition indicates a degree of self-awareness. That is all that has been concluded. Certainly, the capacity for self-awareness raises interesting implications in terms of cognition (e.g. empathy, ascribing intentionality to conspecifics, etc.). However, the authors' clearly defined the protocols, results and conclusions, and specifically avoided making any comparisons between Magpie self-recognition as it relates to human-type "consciousness", in any way, degree or kind.

Quote from article:

"Altogether, results show that magpies are capable of understanding that a mirror image belongs to their own body. We do not claim that the findings demonstrate a level of self-consciousness or self-reflection typical of humans. The findings do however show that magpies respond in the mirror and mark test in a manner so far only clearly found in apes, and, at least suggestively, in dolphins and elephants."

No competing interests declared.