Animal minds Intelligent Design

Dogs can pass the smell test, not the mirror test, of self-recognition

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From ScienceDaily:

Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, the research’s leader, wrote in her report: “While domestic dogs, Canis familiaris, have been found to be skillful at social cognitive tasks and even some meta-cognitive tasks, they have not passed the test of mirror self-recognition (MSR).”

She borrowed the pioneering ethological approach, called the “Sniff test of self-recognition (STSR)” proposed by Prof. Cazzolla Gatti in 2016 to shed light on different ways of checking for self-recognition, and applied it to thirty-six domestic dogs accompanied by their owners.

This study confirmed the previous evidence proposed with the STSR by Dr. Cazzolla Gatti showing that “dogs distinguish between the olfactory ‘image’ of themselves when modified: investigating their own odour for longer when it had an additional odour accompanying it than when it did not. Such behaviour implies a recognition of the odour as being of or from ‘themselves’.” Paper. (paywall) – Alexandra Horowitz. Smelling themselves: Dogs investigate their own odours longer when modified in an “olfactory mirror” test. Behavioural Processes, 2017; 143: 17 DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2017.08.001 More.

The mirror test isn’t a good one because it assumes that the animal understands what a mirror even is. The cognitive load of recognizing what a mirror image is and does is much greater for the dog than the cognitive load of recognizing himself by his own body’s smell. And he prefers to recognize things by smell.

Incidentally, why have some doubted that dogs have “self-recognition”? All it need mean is that the life form senses specific boundaries between itself and not-itself. What follows from self-recognition depends on the type of mind the animal has.

See also: Science Mag: Dogs understand vocabulary, intonation Of course. Otherwise, how would they distinguish between Bad dog, bad! and Good dog, good!

Do monkeys’ bad guesses help show how human consciousness evolved?

Furry, feathery, and finny animals speak their minds

and

Animal minds: In search of the minimal self

4 Replies to “Dogs can pass the smell test, not the mirror test, of self-recognition

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Mirrors aren’t a human invention. Every lake and river is a mirror. Animals that like to catch fish (bears, raccoons, beavers, etc) have to deal with the perceptual problem of the mirror.

    I see the fish I want, but I also see another raccoon down there! He’s facing me and threatening me, but he’s sort of wiggly and warpy! What’s going on?

    Those animals must have figured out how to separate the images somehow.

  2. 2
    News says:

    Good point, Polistra at 1, but natural reflections are mainly attended to by life forms so that they can see *other life forms* (or maybe non-living phenomena like rocks or weather, etc.)

    The mirror is a peculiarly human invention that enables us to see *ourselves* clearly. The dog approaching a mirror probably does not understand that that is what he is supposed to see and certainly not why.

    (Yes, we can give him a reward but that doesn’t tell us how he would see the situation naturally, for himself.)

    Thus, when determining whether dogs can recognize themselves, a smell test is far more likely to produce useful results. And, no surprise, dogs can indeed recognize themselves that way.

    The mirror test was just getting in the way of understanding dog minds.

  3. 3
    ppolish says:

    “The mirror is a peculiarly human invention that enables us to see *ourselves* clearly. The dog approaching a mirror probably does not understand that that is what he is supposed to see and certainly not why”

    That’s exactly what I was thinking too. A human oblivious to mirrors probably would not recognize themselves either.

  4. 4
    News says:

    But polistra at 3, not only are humans not oblivious to mirrors, their introduction in many cultures has occasioned an uproar over “theft of the soul.” We do not hear that complaint much from dogs or chimpanzees.

    See Imagine a world of religions that naturalism might indeed be able to explain

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