Mirror Test

I came across a recording of an interview with Julian Paul Keenan, one of biopsychologist Gordon Gallup’s better known students. Keenan explains his mentor’s famous mirror test. I combined his explanation with scenes from The Human Ape, a documentary by National Geographic.


What this test demonstrates concerning the questions of self-awareness, consciousness and what it means to be human, is highly debated. It is clear, however, that increased mimetic abilities allow for higher levels of self-recognition, self-consciousness and empathy with others. The ability to duplicate myself (duplication is a kind of mimesis) allows me to imagine myself (being somewhere else, e.g. in the mirror) – this is the creation of a distance towards myself which allows me to reflect upon myself (increased self-awareness) and to put myself in someone else’s shoes (important for developing empathyof course empathy has positive and negative consequences; read more on this by clicking here).

These articles are worth exploring:

Can Animals Empathize? Yes (Gordon Gallup) – pdf

Empathy and Consciousness (Evan Thompson) – pdf

The Thief in the Mirror (Frans de Waal) – pdf

Reflections of Consciousness – The Mirror Test (Pentti Haikonen) – pdf