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Background

A well-known test for consciousness in an organism is to observe its ability to recognise itself in a mirror (see wikipedia article: "Mirror test").

Question

Why haven't I come across a "non-visual" mirror test? I.e. one that involves one of the other senses?

For example, how about testing for consciousness in bats by using an "audio mirror", the premise being that perhaps bats may recognise themselves through echolocation?

enter image description here

(image adapted from here)

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    $\begingroup$ There are many ways to test higher brain function in animals. The mirror test is by no means robust. Hopefully some questions will touch on this. $\endgroup$ – James Dec 16 '14 at 11:43
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Reading the page you linked, I found this

MSR test may be of limited value when applied to species that primarily use senses other than vision. For example, dogs mainly use olfaction and audition; vision is used only third. It is suggested this is why dogs fail the MSR test. (With this in mind, the biologist Marc Bekoff developed a scent-based paradigm using dog urine to test self-recognition in canines.[19][41] He tested his own dog, but his results were inconclusive.[42])

Emphasis mine.

19 Archer, John (1992). Ethology and Human Development. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-389-20996-1.

41 Stanley Coren. How Dogs Think. ISBN 0-7432-2232-6.

42 http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201107/does-my-dog-recognize-himself-in-mirror

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Here are my thoughts.

  1. An animal does not chose to emit some light while they have more control over other signals they emit and may likely just not emit it. So it would not be an easy trait to study.

  2. More importantly, animals (almost) always receive feedback for signals they emit. When a dog barks, it can hear itself! Animals are not used to receive feedback of their appearance through a mirror and therefore they cannot evolve to respond adaptively to the signal they emitted. Any adaptive response to a new signal is either due to luck or to cognitive abilities. The advantage of the (visual) mirror is that it is uncommon and their response therefore necessarily reflects cognitive abilities. Typically, if a bat can response to the sound it produces, it doesn't mean it is able of self consciousness (Theory of Mind), it just mean that bats evolved to recognize the sound they produce.

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It's got to be because optical mirrors are relatively easy to produce and field, and it's obvious that it presents a duplicate.

I would be interested in designs for a 'sound mirror' that doesn't just look like a wall under echolocation. Maybe a system to dynamically reproduce a 'sound hologram' of the bat?

A 'scent mirror' would be really difficult to build, not to mention 'ability to recognize your own smell' doesn't really imply higher brain function. Perhaps storing urine from dogs in estrus or stress or something to see if their own scents provoke behavior changes as if it was another dog?

A 'touch mirror'? A 'taste mirror'?

Nearly everything can see, and mirrors are way easier than the alternatives.

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    $\begingroup$ I mean a scent 'mirror' using urine from other parts of the female estrus cycle for instance might be interesting, but 'it's really hard and/or redundant' covers your question. $\endgroup$ – Resonating Dec 18 '14 at 3:15
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    $\begingroup$ Most animals can see, but not all use sight as the primary way to recognize individuals. For instance, a person with visual agnosia might conceivably be able to "see" but still fail the mirror test. $\endgroup$ – augurar Dec 21 '14 at 9:27

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