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Jan 29, 2013

Mirror Self Recognition (MSR) in Parrots

This study examines the ability to see one’s self in the mirror and understand that the reflection is that of the self.

In non-human animals, this is measured through the use of a mark test.   

A mark is placed on the animal in a spot where it cannot be seen without the use of a mirror.   The animal is then presented with a mirror and observed for self-directed behavior toward the mark.

The biggest problem with many of the attempts to find MSR in birds is that sample size is limited to 1 or 2 birds in a laboratory setting. Therefore, this study seeks to enlist the help of the parrot-keeping community to increase the sample size.

The mark test is fairly simple to conduct in a participant’s home. All that is required is a mirror, food coloring or finger paint of a color that contrasts with your bird’s feathers, and a video recorder (one from a phone or camera is fine as long as there is sound).

If interested in participating, specific and specialized instructions will be provided on the procedure, which must be followed with due diligence to ensure the quality and usability of the data collected.

Participants will also fill out a short questionnaire which asks some basic questions about your bird and his/her previous experience with mirrors.

The website includes instructions, a sample video, the survey, and a link to upload finished video by participants. The research staff will provide a small amount of food coloring to participants for use if necessary.

The site also contains a language supplement to inventory a list of words participant’s birds speak during the course of a week-long observation. Because this requires a longer commitment, this not part of the actual MSR study, but an additional data collection component which would greatly enhance the data collected for this and future similar studies.

To elicit participation and thank participants for their time, each completed video/survey pair received is entered into a drawing for one of five book prizes sponsored by the university. If you have access to more than one bird, feel free to test as many birds as you wish!  Those completing the additional week-long word observation will receive an additional entry to the drawing.  Book prizes will be a choice of book from the Psychology 101 series found here:

Thank you in advance for your participation, and please direct any questions about the study to me at the email and phone number below.


Allison B. Kaufman, PhD
California State University - San Bernardino
(909) 537-3841

Link to the study:


Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Tuesday January 29, 2013, 11:45 am
Tags: bird animal parrot science mark avian research tes psychology behaviour experiment psittacine [add/edit tags]

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