Self-awareness in elephants!

As per a recent news report, it has been found that elephants too have self-awareness. The test used was that of identifying a spot on their body, when in front of mirror and observing their behavior when in front of mirror. This is a classical measure of self-awareness, though some disagree about its importance.

After apes and dolphins, Elephants also seem to have self-awareness!

The original study is available at PNAS and offers some convincing data.

Update: The video of the elephant touching the mark on her body after seeing her reflection in mirror is available at the Neurohilosopher.

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6 thoughts on “Self-awareness in elephants!

  1. Sandy G

    Well, actually The Mirror Test used in this study is a classical method of determining whether an animal is self-aware. Basically the theory is that only a self-aware animal (who has some sort of preliminary theory-of-mind in the sense that it is at least aware that it itself has a mind…and body) would not mistake the reflection in the mirror to be that of another animal.

    For most animals, it is presumed that they are not self-aware, and as such are not able to appreciate that the reflection in the mirror is their own reflection- they instead think that the reflection is actually another animal.

    So this experiment is important in the sense that it demonstrates that elephants are able to recognize themselves (in mirrors or in pond-water reflections) and thus have an awareness of themselves as an individual entity that has body and can reflect on itself.

  2. Archana Bahuguna

    I’ve always loved elephants. They seem spiritual to me :-). (I know this mya not be exactly related to your blog content) 🙁

  3. Alvaro

    Good! do you think some elephants will therefore be interested in Brain Fitness? will check the literature on elephant cognitive development over time 🙂

    Sandy: we have migrated our blog to a new URL:



  4. Sandy G


    With the recent studies implicating obesity with cognitive decline in old age, elephants would not only be interested, they desperately need the brain fitness programs!!

    I have changed my links for the new Sharbrains blog, but I must admit that the Sharpbrains blog is very active in terms of daily postings and I normally lag behind a little in my daily perusal.

  5. alvaro

    Sandy, you will understand that elephants do have a lot of free time in their hands (legs?) and are asking us for more stimulating blog posts. A few did also complain that your posts are a bit complex for them-at least for the time being- and they enjoy ours more.

    We will have to create a separate blog for busy humans. And be ready-will shortly be able to forward enlightened elephant readers your way!

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