mirror, mirror on the wall

sooooo, it turns out that non-western children don’t do so well on the old mirror-recognition test. from the bps research digest blog:

“Studies in the West suggest that around half of all 18-month-olds pass the test, rising to 70 per cent by 24 months. Chimps, orangutans, dolphins and elephants have also been shown to pass the test, and there’s recent debate over whether monkeys can too.

“Tanya Broesch and her colleagues began by taking a simplified version of the mirror self-recognition test to Kenya, where they administered it to 82 children aged between 18 to 72 months…. Amazingly, just two of the children ‘passed’ the test by touching or removing the post-it note. The other eighty children ‘froze’ when they saw their reflection – that is they stared at themselves but didn’t react to the post-it note.

“Next, Broesch and her team took their test to Fiji, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Peru, Canada and the USA, where they tested 133 children aged between 36 to 55 months. The performance of the North American children was in line with past research, with 88 per cent of the US kids and 77 per cent of the Canadians ‘passing’ the test. Rates of passing in Saint Lucia (58 per cent), Peru (52 per cent) and Grenada (51 per cent) were significantly lower. In Fiji, none of the children ‘passed’ the test.

the researchers offer various cultural (of course) reasons for the differences.


i wonder if there is any correlation with iq?

speaking of mirror-recognition, check out the loom for a fantastic video! really. don’t miss it!

update: thought i’d try to find out for myself if there was any correlation with iq…

iq data taken from lynn & vanhanen, 2002. there’s a positive correlation of 0.63 between the data which is pretty high given that we’re talking about human behavior.

more data obviously required.

(note: comments do not require an email.)



  1. A few things I would like to add.

    1) In Western children (and dolphins) a mark was used. When shown a mirror most showed interest in the mark.

    2) In “non Western” children, the scientists used POST ITS. POST ITS!! They were still unable to recognize themselves with a large piece of paper on their heads, which I assume some could also feel.

    Also, the extent to which dolphins can recognize themselves is superior to other mammals except humans (or shall I say, “some” humans). They spend a lot of time looking at themselves and go back for multiple looks. They also seek out the best light for their reflection.

    I’m going out on a limb here, but considering the Gaussian distribution of g, could some of the smarter dolphins out-IQ some of the less smart humans?


  2. IQ in and of itself is a Western concept so in that light the connection between the mirror and the IQ is fatally flawed. In addition, Lynn and Vanhanen’s work has been greatly criticized.


  3. @makeitplainonline – “IQ in and of itself is a Western concept so in that light the connection between the mirror and the IQ is fatally flawed.”

    gravity is also a western concept, but i’m pretty sure it applies most places on the planet. (just ’cause a thought was thunk first in the west doesn’t mean its conclusions cannot/do not apply in non-western situations.)


  4. Before Columbus people believed the world was flat. With an absence of the whole story you can draw many conclusions that ultimately prove untrue.

    There is an even bigger problem when your talking about something as complex as human behavior. The problem is not with having the idea, the problem is trying to make the idea fit into one schema.

    You cannot impose your worldview/ideas on other people. The world is not flat.


  5. @makeitplainonline – “Before Columbus people believed the world was flat. With an absence of the whole story you can draw many conclusions that ultimately prove untrue.”

    you’ve drawn the wrong parallel.

    people in the past (or even in the present) who believed the world was flat/didn’t know it is a globe thought that way because they were unscientific in their thinking.

    in today’s world, people who “don’t believe in iq” fail to think scientifically. it is they who are most like the flat earthers of the past.


  6. The “science” around IQ is staggerlingly weak.

    In addition, it is actually not that I don’t beleive in IQ, it is just that I do not beleive we have determined the way to measure it in all humans. we really haven’t come up with a good way to measure it for people in the west. The standard tests have major limitaions.


  7. @makeitplain – “The ‘science’ around IQ is staggerlingly weak.”


    @makeitplain – “it is just that I do not beleive we have determined the way to measure it in all humans. we really haven’t come up with a good way to measure it for people in the west. The standard tests have major limitaions.”

    and your evidence for this is?


  8. I’m really missing your evidence for your argument here. But anyway, I am a psychologist, who is trained to use these instruments. I have studied these tests for years. I also was qualified to teach undergraduate statistics at a large university, and can evaluate these tests in terms of their statistical properties which are pretty weak. So, I think it is safe to say I know a little about the weaknesses of the tests. I suggest you do your own research regarding these matters.

    And by the way, there was “science” much before 1492, it was just limited and that is all I am saying in terms of the measure of human IQ, that it is limited.


  9. @makeitplain – “I’m really missing your evidence for your argument here.”

    i’m just going by what the American Psychological Association has said about iq tests. they seem to have no problems with iq and iq testing. (please, see link in my previous comment.)

    @makeitplain – “And by the way, there was “science” much before 1492, it was just limited.”

    of course there was science (no need for the scare quotes) before 1492. scientific thinkers in ancient greece, for example, understood that the world was round (and that the earth circles the sun and not the other way about). my point was that peoples in the past AND today who didn’t/don’t know that the earth isn’t flat thought/think that way because they didn’t/don’t have a scientific way of thinking. they’re superstitious or religious or whatever.

    @makeitplain – “that is all I am saying in terms of the measure of human IQ, that it is limited.”

    you may feel it is limited, but iq tests are quite predictive (i.e. one can pretty easily predict that a person with an iq of 90 will not grow up to be an astrophysicist), which is in large part what science is all about.


  10. plainonline,
    I’m sure you’re way wayyyy ahead of me, or at least could be if you wanted to, when it comes to criticisms and defenses of g. I don’t know thing one about PCA, I mean; I merely have a vague idea of what it is.

    However, I’m very nearly convinced that g is not crucial to making statements about intelligence. So I don’t really need higher stats to understand what’s going on. Any reasonable IQ instrument that you select may or may not show a correlation above 0.80. Does it really matter? Take any one you want, and you will still have the predictive power hbd chick mentions; indeed the predictive power is a good deal more precise even than is indicated by her example, although it is of course not minutely precise, on account of the other variables at play. Simply pronouncing IQ science to be limited should be considered inadequate. I don’t think you would deny that plenty of medical recommendations rest on an epistemology hinging on correlation coefficients far lower in value than some of those you have dealt with in your education and/or work – and rightly so; very rightly so. Indeed, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, so I suspect you are sort of ‘stonewalling’ because of a fear that IQ science may have bad results. I admit that the probability of that is well below unity, but I’ll go ahead just in case.

    What do you think of the famine in Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia? How strongly can you maintain that this still would have happened without racial equalitarian and anti-colonial philosophies being very energetically disseminated, to the point where one cannot publicly deny them in America, much less Europe? How about the rest of Africa – is population growth going to slow down enough in time to prevent problems there?

    How about Hungary, where Gypsies, a large majority unemployed, are reproducing at about 1.5-2x the rate of the Magyars, the more-or-less chthonic people of the country. The IQ of the Gypsies is very low, whereas the number of jobs fitting for not-intelligent individuals is of course slowly contracting due to technological innovation. It would be feasible to give financial incentives to the Gypsies to have less than 2 kids per woman, so that they would not constitute about half of Hungary’s population in 50 years. When 2060 comes, and Hungarian life is totally economically out of whack, maybe the EU will take care of the situation with permanent welfare payments. If not, what exactly will happen there? In my opinion there is a significant risk of genocide.

    How about American Blacks? Is a sweeter, gentler education kinder for them, or does it make large numbers of them monstrous, or at least highly uncivilized? In my opinion they turned out much better when schooling involved corporal punishment. Keep in mind that they used to live in traditional cultures whose stricture and rigor would shock Confucius, who, in case you haven’t read the Analects (I’ve read only a little), was an extremely radical traditionalist, to an extent that cannot be matched by more than maybe two or three remembered authors from the post-Enlightenment West. (Assuming we leave out of account those who just cleave very very extremely to pre-Enlightenment faiths, and are unable to address the Englightment authors in any way that we would call ‘philosophical’. Not that I dislike such people. I am fairly skeptical of the Enlightenment, myself; and I am skeptical of the ability of reason – as applied by actual power structures consisting of real people in real life – to guide us better than tradition, though it’s not like there is nothing at all I would change in pre-Enlightment traditions.)

    How about Germany? France? Are they going to remain majority-European? Is there some provision being made for the Europeans there, then? And the US? Dispossessing and disappointing a people and worsening its living conditions is the recipe for fascism and other demagoguery. Most of the people in America and Europe are too dumb to tell whether your political worldview or mine is closer to reality. But reality prevails in the end; it cannot be obscured for very long. Eventually everyone will see what it is, and be extremely angry. Anthropology, unless it be of the most wishful sort, will show you that humans are very violent. This violence is tamed (and even then only with difficulty) by prosperity: wealth and safety. In the end I think there is a serious risk of violence in many areas, not just Zimbabwe and Hungary, and regardless of whether HBD comes to have any influence. Ignoring these problems isn’t going to avert them. Intellectual and moral leadership by highly capable, sensitive people who recognize reality and don’t want violence is, in my personal opinion, what can make the best of things. In my opinion, we are otherwise going to have callous demagogues pop up in more than one locale, before the century closes.

    Our moral intuitions are based on neural hardware that is adapted to the world before this one, the pre-modern world in which Europe was a semi-theocracy. We should pat respect to tradition but there are certain areas where reason is necessary because of our maladaption to these modern conditions. Your evolved moral sense was made partly just to keep you out of trouble with fellow community members. That’s why any legal thing that many people in our/your country do feels ‘fine’. And it’s why you feel good about propounding racial equality, and don’t think about whether this idea has thousands in Zimbabwe and will later kill many people in South Africa. We aren’t programmed to have these thoughts, and thus it takes a degree of meditation to come to an opinion about them.


  11. Oh, and considering how non-sapient animals do far better than some of those non-western samples, why even try?


  12. makeitplainonline said:

    “IQ in and of itself is a Western concept so in that light the connection between the mirror and the IQ is fatally flawed”

    Makeit, it sounds like you studied school psychology or psychology of the public interest. I met a number of those in gradschool and they were oblivious when it came to cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and psychometrics —

    Regardless, both the measurement of intelligence (IQ) and the measurement of self-awareness (the Mirror test) have western origins, so it’s not clear why the connection would be ‘fatally flawed.’

    You could say, of course, that the ‘intelligence’ being measured is a western concept of intelligence — but like ‘self-awareness’ and ‘science,’ this shouldn’t be a surprise since ‘intelligence’ is a western term — it’s Latin for ‘inter’ ‘legere’ which literary means to ‘read’ and ‘choose and pick’ ‘between.’ It just so happens that this concept is quite useful — which is why it has been adopted internationally, which in turn is why there are international educational assessments which correlate highly with national IQ scores, and measure students’ ability to ‘read’ and ‘choose and pick’ ‘between’

    “The “science” around IQ is staggerlingly weak.”

    What is staggeringly week is your understanding of the field. Here are some open access primers:

    McGrew, 2009. CHC Theory and the human cognitive abilities project: Standing on the shoulders of the giants of psychometric intelligence research.

    Deary, Penke and, Johnson, 2010. The neuroscience of human intelligence differences.

    “it is just that I do not beleive we have determined the way to measure it in all humans”

    Refer to Schmitt and Quinn, 2010. Reduction in Measured Subgroup Mean Differences: What is possible? — For an extensive discussion of various methods. The question you are asking is under intensive investigation. Apparently you are not in IO.

    “The standard tests have major limitaions.”

    The ability to do well in standardized testing is one of the principle aspect of what it means to be intelligent. The question is, how much does this generalize. In Eurasian populations, it so happens that people who have a low capacity for rational analysis also have low functioning skills (are retarded). It could be that other populations are different, which would make IQ tests bioculturally biased — but, either way, they still would have a low capacity for rational analysis — which is not to say why.

    “Lynn and Vanhanen’s work has been greatly criticized.”

    One does not need to rely on Lynn and Vanhanen. Refer to Rindermann, 2007. The g-factor of international cognitive ability comparisons: The homogeneity of results in PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS and IQ-tests across nations. Read through the comment section. Notice Ceci, Williams, Flynn, Hunt, Wicherts, Sternberg, Meisenberg, Weis, etc comment on it.


  13. Whites just cannot accept that blacks fail time after time because they are racially inferior. And that is a huge failing in itself. What once was common knowledge must now be won back, bit by bit, with euphemism (“non-western” children) and argumentation. Those African tots miss the Post-It note of the scientist; whites miss the Post-It note of reality.


  14. @outis – “…with euphemism (“non-western” children)….”

    well, in this case i didn’t use it as a euphemism. it wasn’t just black kids who did poorly on the test, but also some pacific islanders.


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