Why is self recognition in front of mirrors is an indicator of intelligence in animals?



Why is self recognition in front of mirrors is an indicator of intelligence in animals?

In: Biology

It shows that the animal has a concept of *self* which is an indicator of higher intellecttual activity. If it doesn’t recognize itself, most probably it is either just walking around without any thinking, like a mechanical toy animated by evolutionary programming via basic instincts, or is just too dumb to recognize itself.

It’s more a question of self awareness than anything. For the longest time, it was considered that there could be no intelligence without self awareness. One cannot change its own comportment, if one doesn’t know it is something that can be impacted. If you don’t know you are, you don’t know you could be.

Important to note that this method is not extremely reliable, and that some may be self aware even when failing the test, but that maybe eyesight isn’t the way to go for them. Some were aware of their own song or scent.

It takes about 2 years for us, humans, to understand that what we see in a mirror is a reflection of ourselves (and thus, being self aware). That’s why babies don’t understand very well what they see in a mirror.

[This article from National Geographic](https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/150214-animals-behavior-mirrors-dolphins-dogs-self-awareness-science) (which I recommend!) explains it better. But, long story short, for an animal to recognize that what it sees in a mirror is itself, it requires some pretty rad brain functions – functions that we slowly acquire in, more or less, two years.

On the other hand, those who apparently can’t see themselves on the mirror generally think that what they see reflected is another of their own species, so that’s also pretty interesting!