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Journal Article

Chimpanzees, Symbols, and the Reflective Self

Jay Meddin
Social Psychology Quarterly
Vol. 42, No. 2 (Jun., 1979), pp. 99-109
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3033691
Page Count: 11
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Chimpanzees, Symbols, and the Reflective Self
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Abstract

This paper evaluates the growing literature on chimpanzee cognition and seeks to determine whether they are truly capable of symbolic thought and of the perception of the self as an object. On the basis of the accumulated evidence, it is concluded that they are capable of both. Chimpanzees show a clear ability for cross-modal association, abstract thought, and displacement of thought in time. They also are capable of combining symbols meaningfully. The apes are able to recognize their reflected images and to refer to themeselves reflexively. Furthermore, much as Mead outlined for humans, the self emerges socially in chimpanzees too; they show an incipient ability to take the role of the other. The implications of these conclusions are briefly examined.

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