Raccoons cover their eyes to hide… because they’re geniuses!

A raccoon covering its eyes to hide.
Raccoons often hide by covering their eyes.

Raccoons usually cover their eyes when they’re scared and trying to hide. This may not seem like a particularly intelligent behavior, but it may be a sign that they’re among the smartest animals on Earth.

Small children often exhibit this same behavior, “hiding” by covering only their eyes . When scientists studied this tendency in human kids, they discovered that children do this because they believe the self, separately from the body, is visible through the eyes. Children with their eyes covered would acknowledge to researchers that their bodies, arms, hair, feet, and legs could be seen, but would insist, “but you can’t see me.”

This tells us that raccoons, like children, must also have a concept of selfhood, and a theory of mind. The only other animals to exhibit awareness of self are particularly intelligent, such as higher primates, some species of dolphin, and a few species of bird.

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