The Pros And Cons Of Self Recognition

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For the past month or two my mom has been sending me pictures and videos of a red cardinal who seems to be “fighting himself” in our garden mirror. We assume the cardinal to be a resident of our backyard as he always comes back, every day, to “fight himself” and sometimes a female bird accompanies him and last year even some fledglings. Is this cardinal really “fighting himself?” Does he even recognize that that is indeed, a reflection of him showing back to him? As until recently, humans were thought to have been the only living creatures who have what we call “self-recognition.” Self-recognition, for our purposes, is defined by the mirror test. The mirror test was and still is an experiment developed by psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. to determine whether an animal possesses the ability to recognize itself in a mirror (Gallup, 1970). It is used as an indicator of self-awareness in human and non-human animals, such as chimpanzees and dolphins. Typically a mirror is placed in the enclosure of the animal subject and reactions to the mirror are recorded. To test whether or not the animal has self-awareness, researchers would then disfigure the animal in some way, for example placing a red dot inconspicuously on the back on a chimp or dolphin. If the animal inspects it, try to remove it, etc it is said the animal has self-recognition. For the purpose of this paper, I would like to define the reactions and evidence of three main animals who have self-awareness: human, apes, and dolphins. As humans, we all recognize that we have self-awareness. We look at ourselves daily in a mirror to tell if our outfit looks cute or if we’re having a bad hair day. However, we do not start to develop a sense of self-awareness until about 18 months o... ... middle of paper ... ...r skills and coordination. Our findings suggest, that young dolphins may show advanced cognition at an earlier age with respect to mirror self-directed behavior as compared to humans and chimpanzees” (Reiss & Morrison, 2012). Now as for our little cardinal friend, it has not been found that they have such self-recognition. It is likely that he is actually “fighting himself” because he may think that it is another male cardinal in his territory. The only bird that been proven to show self-recognition is the magpie (Prior, Schwarz, Gunturkun, 2008). My point in writing this paper however, is to show that we are not the only sentient and all-knowing beings out there. It is important for us to discover the true possibilities of the living creatures around us and give them the respect they deserve. We are not the only ones who can recognize if we have a bad hair day.

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