One Clever Trick To Get All The Chimps’ Attention The Next Time You’re At The Zoo

Just like us humans, chimps love looking into a mirror.

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In 1970, psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. developed what became known as the “mirror test ,” a behavioral technique developed to determine if animals possessed the ability of self-recognition. The method involved placing a chimpanzee alone in a room with a full-length mirror for a total of 80 hours while the multitude of behaviors exhibited by the chimp were recorded. Following an initial hostile reaction to what the chimp would think was a different animal, the primates would eventually start to use the mirrors for ‘self-directed’ behaviors such as grooming, making funny faces, and blowing bubbles at the reflections of themselves.

While working on assignment in Brazil a few years ago, filmmaker and amateur chimpanzee aficionado Gabe Reilich decided to try a little experiment of his own using a cellphone and some mirrors. The concept was to determine if he could engage with chimpanzees at the zoo (who usually completely ignore the human bystanders) by showing them reflections of themselves while recording them on the camera phone. The fun little experimented yielded the hoped-for results: the apes went nuts.

The mirror-encased camera phone:

The curious chimps: