Who’s in the Mirror? Self–Other Discrimination in Specular Images by Four- and Nine-Month-Old Infants


  • Philippe Rochat,

  • Tricia Striano


This research investigated the early determinants of self-other discrimination in infancy. Ninety-six 4- and 9-month-old infants were placed facing a live image either of themselves or of another person (experimenter) mimicking them. The specular image was either contingent (on-line), or contingent with a 2-s delay. After a first 1-min presentation, the video image of either the self or the other was suddenly frozen for 1 min (still-face episode). This was followed by a last minute of live presentation. From 4 months of age, infants appeared to perceive and act differentially when facing the specular image of themselves or the mimicking other. In general, infants tended to smile more, look more, and have more protracted first-look duration toward the mimicking other compared with the self. Developmentally, 9-month-olds showed markedly more social initiatives toward the mimicking other compared with the self during the still-face episode. In all, these results indicate that infants develop self-other discrimination in specular images long before mirror self-recognition, which is typically reported by the second year. Discrimination of the self from other is interpreted as a precursory ability and a perceptual foundation of later conceptual self development.