The Mirror Test: Exploring Self-Recognition in Consciousness and Sales

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The Mirror Test, also known as the Mirror Self-Recognition Test (MSR), is a fascinating experiment that has captivated scientists, philosophers, and animal behaviorists alike for decades. This test attempts to dive deeper into the phenomenon of animal self-awareness and consciousness, raising fundamental questions about what it means to recognize oneself and how this ability may relate to higher cognitive functions.

In this blog post, we will explore the history, methodology, controversies, and implications of the Mirror Test, with references to influential research studies. Additionally, Scott Messer, a business development and sales leader, will share the correlation between the Mirror Test and sales.

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History of the Mirror Test

Monkey looking at reflection to show the mirror test

The idea of self-recognition and consciousness in animals dates back to the works of Charles Darwin, who suggested that some animals may possess a rudimentary form of self-awareness. However, it was not until 1970 that psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. formally developed the Mirror Test. He tested whether animals could recognize their own reflections in mirrors as an indication of self-awareness.

Methodology of the Mirror Test

The Mirror Test involves placing an animal in front of a mirror and observing its reactions to the reflection. Animals that are thought to possess self-awareness are expected to display specific behaviors, such as:

1. Mirror-Induced Self-Directed Behavior: The animal shows signs of self-directed behavior while looking at the mirror, like touching or examining parts of its body that are otherwise hidden from view.

2. Repetitive Behavior: The animal exhibits repeated movements or actions to explore its reflection from different angles.

3. Mark Test: In some variations of the test, a mark or dye is placed on the animal’s body in a location that can only be seen in the mirror. If the animal shows signs of recognizing the mark as an extension of its own body (e.g., trying to touch or remove it), it suggests self-awareness.

Results and Interpretations

The results of the Mirror Test have been both intriguing and controversial. Several species have demonstrated self-recognition, including:

  • Great Apes: Chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas have consistently passed the Mirror Test, suggesting they possess self-awareness.
  • Bottlenose Dolphins: Studies have shown that dolphins are capable of recognizing themselves in mirrors, implying a certain level of self-awareness.
  • Elephants: Some studies have provided evidence that elephants may exhibit self-recognition behavior in the Mirror Test.


However, there are debates about the validity of the test for certain species, and results for other animals, like dogs and cats, have been inconclusive, leading to skepticism about the test’s applicability to all animals.

Criticisms and Controversies

Critics of the Mirror Test argue that the absence of self-recognition in certain species does not necessarily imply a lack of consciousness or self-awareness. Some suggest that the test may be biased toward animals with more visual or tactile-oriented cognitive abilities.

Furthermore, cultural and environmental factors might influence an animal’s response to the mirror and its willingness to engage with its reflection. Additionally, the Mirror Test may not be appropriate for some species due to differences in sensory perception and social structures.

Implications and Future Directions

The Mirror Test opens the door to profound philosophical questions about consciousness and self-awareness. Understanding self-recognition in animals can shed light on the evolution of cognitive processes and may challenge the traditional boundaries of human exceptionalism.

Shows mirrored reflection in a crystal ball

While the Mirror Test has its limitations and controversies, it remains a valuable tool for studying self-awareness and cognition in certain species. Future research should focus on refining the test to be more applicable to a broader range of animals and exploring alternative methods to assess consciousness in non-human species.

The Mirror Test as it Relates to Sales – Scott Messer’s Input

Recently, I’ve been talking to a lot of people about their attitude toward sales and how attitude is one of the primary keys to individual and collective success, as with the stock market where market psychology drives the herd forward or backward, so it is with sales psychology. It either drives you forward or backward if you allow it to control your behavior and attitude.

The italics are intentional. Because attitude is a matter of choice, like the famous expression, “I choose not to participate in the Recession,” you get to choose yours. In reality, some industries and services are always suffering, but that is a Condition; what are the Problems that stem from the condition, and what are you doing to resolve them for yourself? If your industry or service is not suffering but you are, what responsibility do you take for your individual circumstance, and what are you willing to risk emotionally (for that is what holds us back) to change your circumstances? If your field is thriving, are you coasting or working to be the best you can be?

In either case, are you doing the high-value, high-priority things that move you forward or the busy things that allow you to say how hard you’re working? Are you committed to your own success? Are you self-motivated? Do you accept responsibility and accountability for your role in how you got to where you are today and where you’re going tomorrow?

The good news is that yesterday doesn’t matter. We can have a fresh start beginning right now, this very moment. Every great artist started scribbling lines on a piece of paper before creating masterpieces; every Pulitzer-winning author first wrote gibberish before the best seller; champions are made on the practice field and in the gym, not on the playing field.  What are you doing to raise yourself to a Sales Professional? For example, how is your verbal business card? Great? OK?  Or, “What’s a verbal business card?” Have you prepared for today’s and tomorrow’s sales calls, or are you planning on “winging it”? Do you track your time and activities? Have you created a habit of giving weekly or daily referrals? Are you chasing sales or working to collect Decisions through a sales process? When was the last time you called your Sales Evolution sales coach or, for that matter, responded to the Monday Morning Drill?

At the end of our careers, we all must take The Mirror Test. What’s that, you ask? It’s when you look in the mirror at the end of your career and say one of two things to sum it all up. Either “I did my best and gave it my all” or “Well, it could have been worse”? Your choice. What are you going to say?

Headshot of Scott Messer
Scott Messer

Scott Messer is an accomplished author and founder of Sales Evolution. Scott’s career as a business development professional and entrepreneur has spanned more than 25 years. He has built strategic alliances, co-founded start-ups, overseen mergers and acquisitions, and constructed new business units. Scott is the past President of Sales and Marketing Executives International (SMEI), Philadelphia Chapter, an organization dedicated to promoting the professional standing of the sales vocation through education.

Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.

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