For a long time, humans have seen themselves as the only species with an understanding of self but now, we must ask ourselves, what do animals know?
If we knew that animals have consciousness, it shouldn’t really change the way we treat them because animals should of course be treated with respect regardless.
But since we do not live in a perfect world, unequivocal recognition of the emotional and cognitive intelligence of animals could lead to better laws being passed to protect them.
Key questions have been raised; can animals develop an awareness of their behavior? Do they think about themselves, about others, and about the roles they all play in the world?
This changed when Psychologist Gordon Gallup devised the mirror test in 1970 as part of an experiment with Chimpanzees.
He used red paint to apply two spots to the ape’s faces. Contrary to what was expected by the prevailing opinion at the time, the Chimpanzees did not consider their reflection to be that of a conspecific.
They looked in the mirror and tried to wipe the red stains off themselves. It proved they recognize themselves as distinct from other Chimps and know who they are and what they look like.
The experiment revolutionized the scientific way of looking at the animal world.
Many animals have passed the mirror test including Orangutans, Dolphins, Elephants, Pigeons, Cleaner Wrasse Fish and many of the corvids – the family of birds that includes ravens and the thieving scrub Jay.