Re: Ants are not conscious

From: Jason Resch <>
Date: Sat, 12 Sep 2009 17:03:49 -0500

Dr Nick,
I think part of what the mirror test attempts to establish is that the
animal recognizes the reflection as itself, therefore showing the animal has
a sense of itself as an independent actor within an environment as opposed
to simply an ego-less series of experiences.

If an irritant were used instead of paint and the animal responded, it would
certainly show the animal was aware of the irritation, but it
wouldn't necessary prove the animal is aware of itself being an independent

I think there are lots of problems with the mirror test, at least insofar as
it being used as a means of separating self-aware animals from non-self
aware ones. I think it can be used to prove self-awareness but not disprove
it. For instance, there are many dogs and cats that look at their
reflection and don't react as if it were another animal, is this evidence
they recognize their own reflection?

I came up with a modified mirror test, which I call a surprise test. Have
an animal set such that it can see itself in a mirror. Then using a probe
that is silent, orderless, etc, have it slowly approach from behind (so as
to be visible in the mirror but not directly) and touch the animal. If its
level of surprise is greater than when repeated without the mirror, then one
might conclude the animal anticipated being poked by the probe as it saw its
reflection about to be touched.


On Sat, Sep 12, 2009 at 4:43 PM, Dr Nick <> wrote:

> Russell
> I notice in your book "the theory of nothing that there is a test for self
> awareness (Gordon Gallup) called the mirror test. Not many animals are
> known to have passed this test. However I wonder whether many more would
> if
> the spot painted on them actually was not odourless or indeed was an
> irritant. My point is that why should self awareness be measured by a
> response from signals from the eye to the brain rather than any other of
> the
> senses to indicate that the spot is present and therefore prompt the
> spotted
> one to look into the mirror to see what's what?
> russell standish-2 wrote:
> >
> >
> > I have just submitted my "ants are not conscious" argument to a
> > journal, and to arXiv. If you're interested, the arXiv identifier is
> > arXiv:0802.4121. Please wait a few hours before trying arXiv, though,
> > until the paper is made public by the system.
> >
> > Cheers
> > --
> >
> >
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > A/Prof Russell Standish Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
> > Mathematics
> > UNSW SYDNEY 2052
> > Australia
> >
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > >
> >
> >
> --
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Received on Sat Sep 12 2009 - 17:03:49 PDT

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