Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?

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Offline Make it Lady

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I just heard that elephants are one of the only animals to recognise their own reflections. Also today I stopped at roadworks on a country lane only to have a little black and white bird attack my side window as he could see his reflection in it. It was like a scene from The Birds. I just wondered why most animals can't recognise themselves. It is inconceivable to me.
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Offline JnA

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #1 on: 08/12/2008 23:40:56 »
self awareness?

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Offline dentstudent

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #2 on: 09/12/2008 10:06:31 »
Denial?

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #3 on: 09/12/2008 12:10:35 »
Embarrassment? Well, what would you think if you looked in a mirror & saw something ugly? (Sorry JimBob)
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Online Bored chemist

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #4 on: 09/12/2008 18:25:21 »
I just heard that elephants are one of the only animals to recognise their own reflections.
A couple of the higer primates have mastered this trick. I can understand why you mightn't know about chimps' abillity to recognise themselves; why didn't you know about people?
I think dolphins can too.
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Offline RD

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #5 on: 09/12/2008 20:15:56 »
I just wondered why most animals can't recognise themselves.

From a gene-centred view, an organism (e.g. animal) is a vehicle for genes...

Quote
A crude analogy can be found in the old saying about a chicken being just an egg's way of making more eggs. In a similar inversion, Dawkins describes biological organisms as "vehicles" or survival machines, with genes as the "replicators" that create these organisms as a means of acquiring resources and copying themselves. From an organism-centric perspective, genes can be thought of as a blueprint for some feature that might benefit the organism; but from a gene-centric perspective, the sole implicit purpose is to benefit themselves.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene#Organisms_as_survival_machines

For that vehicle (animal) to have a mental model of its environment which includes a model of itself, i.e. is self aware, is not necessary for it to perform its gene copying function. The hardware required for such mental models, (i.e. big brains), require substantial investment: the adult human brain only weighs 2% of bodyweight but uses uses 20% of blood supply.
« Last Edit: 09/12/2008 20:28:15 by RD »

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Offline Make it Lady

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #6 on: 09/12/2008 21:26:59 »
Thanks RD. What do you think, they think when they see themselves.
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Offline RD

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #7 on: 09/12/2008 21:57:06 »
As you mentioned they will respond as if their reflection was another creature of the same species and gender, so will attack it, run from it, display to it, e.t.c. Communal animals may be comforted by a reflection: I think this is the idea behind giving caged birds a mirror.


« Last Edit: 09/12/2008 22:22:48 by RD »

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Offline LeeE

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #8 on: 10/12/2008 00:07:08 »
I'm sure I recently heard of a corvidae that recognised it's own reflection in experiments.  Things were loosely stuck to it's body (probably small pieces of post-it note), in places where it wouldn't normally be able to see them without viewing it's reflection and it made no effort to remove them.  However, once it was able to see it's own reflection and spot the items (whatever they were) it proceeded to remove them.
...And its claws are as big as cups, and for some reason it's got a tremendous fear of stamps! And Mrs Doyle was telling me it's got magnets on its tail, so if you're made out of metal it can attach itself to you! And instead of a mouth it's got four arses!

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #9 on: 10/12/2008 11:22:01 »
LeeE - I seem to recall something like that too. I can't remember what type of animal it was though.
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Offline RD

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #10 on: 10/12/2008 11:40:03 »
Some dogs will chase their tail not realising it is part of them.
In this video apparently the dog thinks its tail is going to steal some of its food ...
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=AZB6H_oHSpA&feature=related

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #11 on: 10/12/2008 11:42:35 »
Dogs chasing their tail always makes me laugh. It's hilarious when our Rottie x Great Dane does it.
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Offline LeeE

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #12 on: 10/12/2008 18:45:20 »
DrB - I can't remember exactly what sort of bird it was but like I said, I'm pretty sure it was one of the crow family.
...And its claws are as big as cups, and for some reason it's got a tremendous fear of stamps! And Mrs Doyle was telling me it's got magnets on its tail, so if you're made out of metal it can attach itself to you! And instead of a mouth it's got four arses!

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #13 on: 11/12/2008 11:53:50 »
DrB - I can't remember exactly what sort of bird it was but like I said, I'm pretty sure it was one of the crow family.

You could be right. Was it a mynah bird?
« Last Edit: 11/12/2008 12:15:56 by DoctorBeaver »
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Offline dentstudent

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #14 on: 11/12/2008 11:57:36 »
Eth - a Mynah is part of the starling family.....(Is it me or is it foggy in here?)

But the reference to corvids is correct: Magpies
« Last Edit: 11/12/2008 12:01:17 by dentstudent »

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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Why don't most creatures recognise their own reflection?
« Reply #15 on: 11/12/2008 12:15:47 »
I always thought mynahs were crows. Well you learn something every day. Thank you for putting me straight.
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