Animal Self-Awareness

Whether animals possess self-awareness remains a very timely and relevant question, not least because of the animals' welfare and questions on animal Theory of mind and empathy issues associated with it. The most common method to explore this ability in non-verbal subjects (i.e. children, non-human animals) is the study of visual self-recognition through the mirror-mark test. To this day, the ability of mirror self-recognition has been found in only few animal species - great apes, dolphins, elephants, and magpies.  Although investigations in corvids started only recently, they represent a promising taxon to explore. The Mirror-mark test and its interpretations have, however, met some controversy and continue to be heavily discussed in the contemporary literature. This project therefore strives to examine the question of mirror self-recognition on a phylogenetic and ontogenetic level, using corvid species as models (crows, ravens and azure-winged magpies), but also to design new approaches to the study of self-awareness in non-human animals to complement the classical mark-test. 

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Within my group, Lisa-Claire Vanhooland is the PI of this project.