Cultural Variations in Children’s Mirror Self-Recognition
Western children first show signs of mirror self-recognition (MSR) from 18 to 24 months of age, the benchmark index of emerging self-concept. Such signs include self-oriented behaviors while looking at the mirror to touch or remove a mark surreptitiously placed on the child’s face. The authors attempted to replicate this finding across cultures using a simplified version of the classic “mark test.” In Experiment 1, Kenyan children (N = 82, 18 to 72 months old) display a pronounced absence of spontaneous self-oriented behaviors toward the mark. In Experiment 2, the authors tested children in Fiji, Saint Lucia, Grenada, and Peru (N = 133, 36 to 55 months old), as well as children from urban United States and rural Canada. As expected from existing reports, a majority of the Canadian and American children demonstrate spontaneous self-oriented behaviors toward the mark. However, markedly fewer children from the non-Western rural sites demonstrate such behaviors. These results suggest that there are profound cross-cultural differences in the meaning of the MSR test, questioning the validity of the mark test as a universal index of self-concept in children’s development.