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Self-awareness in a small passerine - Great tits (Parus major) perform the mark test

Kraft, Fanny-Linn (2016) BIOP01 20161
Degree Projects in Biology
Abstract
Cognition is one of human kind’s most important features in our own opinion. The more we know about the cognitive abilities of different species the more we know about how cognition has evolved. Self-awareness is a mental trait associated with high levels of cognition and something previously considered to be exclusive to humans and possibly apes. The most common test of self-awareness is a test of whether an animal can recognize itself in a mirror, something considered only possible for self-aware species. The usual design is than that an animal is marked with a coloured spot somewhere on the body where the spot can only be seen by the animal if it is using a mirror. The mark test can thus test whether an animal is capable of... (More)
Cognition is one of human kind’s most important features in our own opinion. The more we know about the cognitive abilities of different species the more we know about how cognition has evolved. Self-awareness is a mental trait associated with high levels of cognition and something previously considered to be exclusive to humans and possibly apes. The most common test of self-awareness is a test of whether an animal can recognize itself in a mirror, something considered only possible for self-aware species. The usual design is than that an animal is marked with a coloured spot somewhere on the body where the spot can only be seen by the animal if it is using a mirror. The mark test can thus test whether an animal is capable of self-recognition, and thus perhaps self-awareness. Among birds, magpies (Pica pica) have been demonstrated to pass the test, and after this more studies have focused on self-recognition in birds. In this study I show that there is no indication that great tits (Parus major) have the ability to recognise themselves in mirrors and are thus unlikely to be self-aware. Further studies are needed to say what it is that sets the magpie apart from the great tit and what makes a bird capable of self-recognition. (Less)
Popular Abstract
Mirror, mirror, who am I? Self-Awareness and the great tit

“I think therefore I am” is one of the world’s most famous phrases. We already know that humans are capable of this type of introspection, but what about other animals? If we could speak with any animal, we could easily find out if they are self-aware but as long as we do not we have to use other methods to find these things out. I have looked into whether the great tit (Parus major) is aware of its own mind and consciousness.

Self-awareness is the awareness of one’s own consciousness and something that is present in all humans. According to some scientists, it is impossible for someone without self-awareness to feel empathy and to trick others. You need to understand that... (More)
Mirror, mirror, who am I? Self-Awareness and the great tit

“I think therefore I am” is one of the world’s most famous phrases. We already know that humans are capable of this type of introspection, but what about other animals? If we could speak with any animal, we could easily find out if they are self-aware but as long as we do not we have to use other methods to find these things out. I have looked into whether the great tit (Parus major) is aware of its own mind and consciousness.

Self-awareness is the awareness of one’s own consciousness and something that is present in all humans. According to some scientists, it is impossible for someone without self-awareness to feel empathy and to trick others. You need to understand that you are an individual apart from others in order to understand that others might know or feel other things than you do. It is interesting to find out which other animals than humans are able to do this, because it might tell us more about why this trait has evolved.

One way of testing if an animal has this trait is to conduct a mark test. In this test the individual being tested is marked in a place it cannot see without a mirror. If the animal tries to remove the mark after it is shown a mirror that means that it has realised that it seeing itself and not another individual. In order to understand this the animal needs to be aware of its own actions and thus be self-aware.

My results
Out of the eighteen birds I tested none of them showed any sign of recognising the reflection or trying to remove the mark I placed on their chest. This suggests that the great tits are not self-aware.

It is hard to say why the great tit does not seem to be capable of recognising its own reflection. This is an intelligent bird and may be expected to be able to do this. Magpies are the only birds that have previously passed the mark test so it is interesting to find out what sets these birds apart from the birds that have failed the test, such as great tits. Hopefully we can find out in the future how self-awareness is useful and why this trait is so rare.


Supervisor: Anders Brodin
Master´s Degree Project 60 credits, autumn and spring, 2016
Department of Biology, Lund University (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Kraft, Fanny-Linn
supervisor
organization
course
BIOP01 20161
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
language
English
id
8876236
date added to LUP
2016-06-01 11:34:47
date last changed
2016-06-01 11:34:47
@misc{8876236,
  abstract     = {Cognition is one of human kind’s most important features in our own opinion. The more we know about the cognitive abilities of different species the more we know about how cognition has evolved. Self-awareness is a mental trait associated with high levels of cognition and something previously considered to be exclusive to humans and possibly apes. The most common test of self-awareness is a test of whether an animal can recognize itself in a mirror, something considered only possible for self-aware species. The usual design is than that an animal is marked with a coloured spot somewhere on the body where the spot can only be seen by the animal if it is using a mirror. The mark test can thus test whether an animal is capable of self-recognition, and thus perhaps self-awareness. Among birds, magpies (Pica pica) have been demonstrated to pass the test, and after this more studies have focused on self-recognition in birds. In this study I show that there is no indication that great tits (Parus major) have the ability to recognise themselves in mirrors and are thus unlikely to be self-aware. Further studies are needed to say what it is that sets the magpie apart from the great tit and what makes a bird capable of self-recognition.},
  author       = {Kraft, Fanny-Linn},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Self-awareness in a small passerine - Great tits (Parus major) perform the mark test},
  year         = {2016},
}