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Author Topic: When did self awareness evolve?  (Read 3253 times)

Offline thedoc

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When did self awareness evolve?
« on: 08/04/2013 10:30:03 »
Blever  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
In the evolutionary development of man or primates in general, when did self awareness first appear, i.e. how many millions of years ago??

Barry Lever

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 08/04/2013 10:30:03 by _system »


 

Offline Don_1

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Re: When did self awareness evolve?
« Reply #1 on: 08/04/2013 17:19:27 »
Trials with mirrors on chimps and dolphins have shown that they exhibit a considerable degree of self awareness. They seem to recognise their own reflection, while other less inteligent species would see the reflection as being another of their species and therefore a possible threat or challenge. For example, put a mirror against the side of an aquarium and a male Siamese Fighting Fish will display its colourful fins as a warning to the percieved interloper. These two examples are more the self recognition side of awareness.

Since both chimps and dolphins (and others) live in groups and work together as a team when hunting, it must be assumed that they are aware of the others in their group, in that they have an understanding of the role each must play during the hunt. An example of this would be the different rolls played by Humpback Whales as they create a bubble net to ensnare their prey. This awareness of the part of others, must equate to an awareness of self.

So I would say self awareness comes when groups of animals become dependant upon being aware of others.

Self awareness and self recognition may not go hand in hand. Lionesses will hunt together. As one positions itself for an attack, others become aware and provide flanking moves. To test whether a lioness is capable of self recognition, take this mirror and hold it up in front of a ravenous lioness.

Do let me know what happens, I shall be interested to learn of your results..... YIKES! I'M OFF!!!
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: When did self awareness evolve?
« Reply #2 on: 09/04/2013 17:38:04 »
I have often wondered whether understanding how a mirror works is actually a true guide to self-awareness though it has often used as a demonstration of such. I think understanding that a reflected image is yourself probably does indicate self awareness, but I am not sure that not understanding that the image is of yourself means that you are not self aware. It may not show high intelligence, but it does not refute self awareness but merely a lack of understanding of mirrors.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: When did self awareness evolve?
« Reply #3 on: 09/04/2013 20:26:53 »
Besides mirrors there are behavioral experiments that seem to demonstrate an animal's self awareness. This is true in primates (not sure about dolphins) but even dogs as well. In addition, not only are these animals aware of themselves, but they also are aware that people they interact with have self-awareness too, and the animals are able to "switch places with them," that is imagine things from that other person's perspective, which to me is even more impressive.

Although not a formal experiement, I laughed when I heard a story about Koko, the famous sign language gorilla who has a pet kitten. Koko got mad one day and ripped the sink off his wall. When his caretakers asked him what happened to his sink, he signed "Kitty did it." Lying is a higher level cognitive skill. First he had to to predict how his caretakers would feel about him trashing the sink. Then he had to imagine an alternate reality than what actually occurred (that he didn't really do it) and come up with a version of events that might be believable from someone else's point of view.  Anyway, I don't see how one could do any of that with out an underlying sense of self awareness.

Or maybe he was just joking around.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: When did self awareness evolve?
« Reply #4 on: 10/04/2013 00:59:19 »
I was going to add that one compare animal brains with human brains and see if they have the same structures as the ones related to self awareness. But I came across this interesting article in Science Daily. It's about a patient who had damage to those structures that are responsible for self awareness (the insular cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the medial prefrontal cortex) and yet he still was very self aware, leading these researchers to speculate that self-awareness must be spread around a lot of different parts of the brain, so to speak. Here is the article if you want to read it.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120822181228.htm
 

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Re: When did self awareness evolve?
« Reply #4 on: 10/04/2013 00:59:19 »

 

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