World’s Smartest Animals Pass Self-Awareness Test

elephant mirror

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There are relatively very few creatures on earth that can pass the mirror test, which measures an animal’s ability to recognize itself in the mirror. If they do, they’ve proven themselves as one of the world’s smartest animals.

In fact, self-awareness is potentially one of the most important criteria for personhood. To be self-aware implies to have a concept of self. In the test, a removable dye is applied to the creature. If the animal attempts to touch the dye on his own body when seeing it in a mirror, it passes the mirror test, revealing self-awareness ability. The elephant, pictured above, is said to have a self-awareness level that’s on par with a human’s.

One of the first things animals capable of recognizing themselves in mirrors do is try exploring the other side of the mirror. Elephants like Maxine and Patty , seen in the video below, swung their trunks over and behind the wall on which the mirror was mounted. They kneeled in front of it to get their trunks under and behind it, and even attempted to physically climb the wall. Remarkably, they didn’t appear to at first mistake their reflections as strangers and try to greet them, as many animals that can recognize themselves normally do.


orcas jumping

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Some believe that orcas, among a few other species, are creatures that should be considered a “non-human person,” due to specific aspects of their brain functions. A person, is someone who is self-aware and intelligent, has a consciousness, thoughts and feelings, an ability to solve complex problems, and is able to initiate actions on his or her own volition. Studies of orca brains and their behavior have revealed that they tick many of these boxes and are also capable of recognizing themselves in the mirror. Of course, this also adds to the argument that they should not be held captive.


chimps mirror

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Chimps easily recognize themselves in mirrors. Research has found that they’re intelligent enough to distinguish a dye dot and remove it by looking at their own reflections.

Bottlenose Dolphins

dolphins mirror test

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Orcas are technically dolphins, so it’s probably not too surprising that bottlenose dolphins also have a level of self-awareness similar to humans. In 2001, two of the dolphins were exposed to reflective surfaces after being marked with black ink, applied with a water-filled marker, or not being marked at all.

The researchers predicted that the dolphins, who had previous experience with mirrors, would not show social responses, would spend more time in front of the mirror when marked, and would move to the mirror faster to inspect themselves. All of this proved to be true, but they even went one step further by consistently selecting the best reflective surfaces to view their new markings.

Other animals that have also passed the mirror test include the super smart bird known as the magpie, orangutans and gorillas.