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A recent post got me thinking. The mirror test of self awareness can't be considered an absolute test for self awareness, as the only conclusion you can take from an animals inability to recognise its self is that it failed the test. My dog for instance, hates the rain, if when she gets to the door and it's raining she refuses to go for a walk. I may be wrong here, but for me this implies she's makeing a choice, based on a future event. Given that there are animals that are definately not aware, a duck for instance. This would automatically mean we can create a linear graph, unaware at the begining and humans (conceted I know but what else) at the finnish.

 

My question is this, what type of animal is just aware. My thinking is perhaps an octopus it's a problem solveing animal but has to relearn the problem however many times it's presented.

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There is plenty of discussion regarding the mirror test.

 

I agree with you that dogs seem to have (some) self awareness. But I get the feeling a dog's self awareness includes its head, but certainly not its ass and tail. :) Once their head first somewhere, they don't care much about the rest. I really wonder if it is aware it has an ass and a tail.

 

But on a more serious note: Aren't animals always planning ahead when they search for food? First there is the search or the chase, and then the reward (food). What I mean to say is that I am not sure that the observation of choices and planning are a good method to test for self-awareness. And I am not sure that a strong dislike of the rain is a learnt behavior or a deliberate choice.

 

Personally, I think dogs can develop new habits, but they don't seem to make many deliberate choices...

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Dogs chase cars.

I suspect, but can't prove, that they just like chasing things.

The fact that this often leads them to their lunch may not be evidence of pre planning as such. It's just that the proto-dogs who didn't chase things starved.

 

 

Whilst I love dogs and would be happy to discuss this all day, Its not really the point. My question ask's for an animal that can be considered just self aware.

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A recent post got me thinking. The mirror test of self awareness can't be considered an absolute test for self awareness, as the only conclusion you can take from an animals inability to recognise its self is that it failed the test. My dog for instance, hates the rain, if when she gets to the door and it's raining she refuses to go for a walk. I may be wrong here, but for me this implies she's makeing a choice, based on a future event. Given that there are animals that are definately not aware, a duck for instance. This would automatically mean we can create a linear graph, unaware at the begining and humans (conceted I know but what else) at the finnish.

 

My question is this, what type of animal is just aware. My thinking is perhaps an octopus it's a problem solveing animal but has to relearn the problem however many times it's presented.

 

How do you REALLY know that a duck does not have self awareness?

 

Humans and ducks are much further apart on the evolutionary tree and our communincation 'wavelengths' are some what different.

 

So unless you can learn 'duck' communication as we have with whales and dolphins then such an assumption is invalid.

 

There is plenty of discussion regarding the mirror test.

 

I agree with you that dogs seem to have (some) self awareness. But I get the feeling a dog's self awareness includes its head, but certainly not its ass and tail. :) Once their head first somewhere, they don't care much about the rest. I really wonder if it is aware it has an ass and a tail.

 

But on a more serious note: Aren't animals always planning ahead when they search for food? First there is the search or the chase, and then the reward (food). What I mean to say is that I am not sure that the observation of choices and planning are a good method to test for self-awareness. And I am not sure that a strong dislike of the rain is a learnt behavior or a deliberate choice.

 

Personally, I think dogs can develop new habits, but they don't seem to make many deliberate choices...

 

Depends what you mean by a deliberate choice.

 

Rockster, my dog, chooses not to eat potato chips with chilli flavouring but he will eat plain or chicken potato chips. That is a deliberate choice exactly the same as we humans make deliberate choices about what foods we will and wont eat.

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How do you REALLY know that a duck does not have self awareness?

 

Humans and ducks are much further apart on the evolutionary tree and our communincation 'wavelengths' are some what different.

 

So unless you can learn 'duck' communication as we have with whales and dolphins then such an assumption is invalid.

 

A good point it articulates my question very well. However the choice of duck as an example is just a semantic error. I'll choose ameba.

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A good point it articulates my question very well. However the choice of duck as an example is just a semantic error. I'll choose ameba.

 

Well that is a different matter.

 

It is hard to see how consciousness can exist without many layers of complexity, and an amoeba is in the very basement of eukaryotic complexity.

 

I suspect consciousness is better viewed as a spectrum rather than a light switch between humans and the rest of life.

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Well that is a different matter.

 

It is hard to see how consciousness can exist without many layers of complexity, and an amoeba is in the very basement of eukaryotic complexity.

 

I suspect consciousness is better viewed as a spectrum rather than a light switch between humans and the rest of life.

 

 

This is the point of the post.

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I suspect consciousness is better viewed as a spectrum rather than a light switch between humans and the rest of life.

This is the point of the post.

Good, so we're still on topic :)

 

The question is how we can measure the "spectrum of consciousness of animals", isn't it?

 

This thread seems to propose that we can measure the levels of consciousness of animals by observing the choices they make.

Other people propose that we measure whether animals recognize themselves in a mirror.

 

When summarized like that, both tests seem a very black-and-white test, no spectrum. So, we must find out how we can turn such tests into something capable of measuring a spectrum of consciousness. I don't see any easy way out, and we might need multiple tests to create a good spectrum.

Luckily, there are more tests. Here's an article about Animal Cognition, which gives more tests, and mentions more types of animals - so perhaps this could be the start of that spectrum.

 

I have some problems with the examples in this thread so far, about pet dogs. Observing the behavior (specifically: choices) of a pet is, in my opinion, not the best way to measure the consciousness of an animal:

- Pets are subjected to relatively strange environments, which lead to behavior that you will never encounter in nature.

- People have strong emotional bonds with pets and may attribute more consciousness to their animals than they actually have. I'm not saying you guys do, but other people might, and that can hinder the objective observations

- When people observe a choice from a pet, they may themselves be influencing the measurement, by body language or otherwise.

In addition, it seems that the intelligence of dogs is particularly hard to quantify:

 

One specific difficulty is confusing a breed's genetic characteristics and a dog's obedience training with intelligence. (wikipedia)

 

Finally, and only on a sidenote, I think that even an amoeba will not score an absolute zero on the consciousness scale. It will score an incredibly low score, but probably not zero.

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Good, so we're still on topic :)

 

The question is how we can measure the "spectrum of consciousness of animals", isn't it?

 

This thread seems to propose that we can measure the levels of consciousness of animals by observing the choices they make.

Other people propose that we measure whether animals recognize themselves in a mirror.

 

When summarized like that, both tests seem a very black-and-white test, no spectrum. So, we must find out how we can turn such tests into something capable of measuring a spectrum of consciousness. I don't see any easy way out, and we might need multiple tests to create a good spectrum.

Luckily, there are more tests. Here's an article about Animal Cognition, which gives more tests, and mentions more types of animals - so perhaps this could be the start of that spectrum.

 

I have some problems with the examples in this thread so far, about pet dogs. Observing the behavior (specifically: choices) of a pet is, in my opinion, not the best way to measure the consciousness of an animal:

- Pets are subjected to relatively strange environments, which lead to behavior that you will never encounter in nature.

- People have strong emotional bonds with pets and may attribute more consciousness to their animals than they actually have. I'm not saying you guys do, but other people might, and that can hinder the objective observations

- When people observe a choice from a pet, they may themselves be influencing the measurement, by body language or otherwise.

In addition, it seems that the intelligence of dogs is particularly hard to quantify:

 

 

 

Finally, and only on a sidenote, I think that even an amoeba will not score an absolute zero on the consciousness scale. It will score an incredibly low score, but probably not zero.

 

I only choose dogs for this example because there my primary source of observation. perhaps a better example would be; When I'm out walking them we have various routes all ofwhich have junctions that are sometimes taken, just to vary things further. One of my dogs all ways at a specific junction, stop and wait in anticipation of taking this one route, we rarely take. When we do take that route she gets very excited, for me this shows happiness further muddying the waters of this debate.

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I only choose dogs for this example because there my primary source of observation. perhaps a better example would be; When I'm out walking them we have various routes all ofwhich have junctions that are sometimes taken, just to vary things further. One of my dogs all ways at a specific junction, stop and wait in anticipation of taking this one route, we rarely take. When we do take that route she gets very excited, for me this shows happiness further muddying the waters of this debate.

Ok. Let's skip the argument about the choice of example. Sorry to bring it up. But what should this example show?

 

Is this an attempt to place your dog, or dogs in general somewhere on the scale in the spectrum of consciousness? And shouldn't we discuss that particular scale first before putting certain animals on it?

 

I've been trying to find such a scale, but my Google searches have come up with nothing useful. There are a lot of studies about particular animals... but scientists seem to be very wary to make a general scale and place all animals on it. Comparing an amoeba, a duck, your dog and humans may be trickier than we think.

 

[edited to fix a typo]

Edited by CaptainPanic
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Finally, and only on a sidenote, I think that even an amoeba will not score an absolute zero on the consciousness scale. It will score an incredibly low score, but probably not zero.

 

I think you need to clearly delineate consciousness/self awareness from autonomic reaction to environmental stimuli.

 

I mean the advanced Japanese androids and robots react to environmental stimuli in ways more/equally? than an ameoba does. But no one would argue that those androids are conscious and self aware.

 

Consciousness requires an inner life and inner dialog regardless of whether or not we are responding to external stimuli. Can you seriously say that an ameoba has an inner life and an inner dialog? What about a virus particle?

 

I think some forms of life must score 0 on the consciousness scale.

 

And further.....I would argue that the organism must have some form of central nervous system to score above zero on the scale.

 

This thread seems to propose that we can measure the levels of consciousness of animals by observing the choices they make.

 

Clearly it is not going to be enough.

 

An ameoba can do that - go left or right if there is a barrier in front of it.

 

Clearly it is going to involve the language as well. We can give a dog instructions and we can tell from its reponse that it has understood the abstract verbal instruction and is able to convert our language to behaviour that we are seeking. From that we infer that the dog is self aware and conscious.

 

We can do the same with whales and dolphins and many other higher species.

 

I guess the level of sophistaction of the verbal commands MIGHT be a measure of the level of consciousness.

 

Or perhaps we can give the subject organism a series of choices of food or what ever. If each seperate individual make a consistent choice of one particular food(s) then we can infer that it is conscious and self aware.

 

In the end it is going to be determined by total cummulative results of a variety of tests tailored for the the species.

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Perhaps consciousness is a light switch and a certain threshold of central nervous system sophistication.

Edited by Greg Boyles
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Would it convince a science minded individual if a dog could speak our language and say, "Yes, of course I made that decision to chase after that car becausing when something moves I want to chase it." No further explanation is required because to the dog it is simple. The dog would then be clearly labeled as "conscious" then the next question to ponder is, "is this logical" and the merry go around continues.

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Would it convince a science minded individual if a dog could speak our language and say, "Yes, of course I made that decision to chase after that car becausing when something moves I want to chase it." No further explanation is required because to the dog it is simple. The dog would then be clearly labeled as "conscious" then the next question to ponder is, "is this logical" and the merry go around continues.

 

This is the delimma isn't it. Brain scientists have not been able to give a precise definition of consciousness and there are therefore no precise tests for it.

 

To a large extent our decision on whether an organism is consciousness or not is based on our perception of and ability to communicate through language (verbal, body, symbolic) with that other species.

 

But scientists have not come up with suitable shared language for most species, we cannot communicate with them in any meaningful way and therefore we inevitably conclude that those species are not conscious.

 

There fore I repeat that any test will likely involve a series of different tests that yields a score of consciousness.

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This is the delimma isn't it. Brain scientists have not been able to give a precise definition of consciousness and there are therefore no precise tests for it.

 

To a large extent our decision on whether an organism is consciousness or not is based on our perception of and ability to communicate through language (verbal, body, symbolic) with that other species.

 

But scientists have not come up with suitable shared language for most species, we cannot communicate with them in any meaningful way and therefore we inevitably conclude that those species are not conscious.

 

There fore I repeat that any test will likely involve a series of different tests that yields a score of consciousness.

 

I agree with you 100% but it is wrong for scientists to conclude that other species are not conscious due to the language barrier of communication. All species are conscious, as to how it is compared to ours remains the mystery.

 

This is the delimma isn't it. Brain scientists have not been able to give a precise definition of consciousness and there are therefore no precise tests for it.

 

To a large extent our decision on whether an organism is consciousness or not is based on our perception of and ability to communicate through language (verbal, body, symbolic) with that other species.

 

But scientists have not come up with suitable shared language for most species, we cannot communicate with them in any meaningful way and therefore we inevitably conclude that those species are not conscious.

 

There fore I repeat that any test will likely involve a series of different tests that yields a score of consciousness.

 

I agree with you 100% but it is wrong for scientists to conclude that other species are not conscious due to the language barrier of communication. All species are conscious, as to how it is compared to ours remains the mystery.

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I agree with you 100% but it is wrong for scientists to conclude that other species are not conscious due to the language barrier of communication. All species are conscious, as to how it is compared to ours remains the mystery.

 

I don't think the assumption that other creatures are not conscious like us is made by scientists generally speaking.

 

It is usually made by non-scientists and is no doubt a christian hangup that is still within most people even if they are not overtly religious.

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I don't think the assumption that other creatures are not conscious like us is made by scientists generally speaking.

 

It is usually made by non-scientists and is no doubt a christian hangup that is still within most people even if they are not overtly religious.

 

How does religion have anything to do with whether other species are conscious or not?

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This is the delimma isn't it. Brain scientists have not been able to give a precise definition of consciousness and there are therefore no precise tests for it.

 

To a large extent our decision on whether an organism is consciousness or not is based on our perception of and ability to communicate through language (verbal, body, symbolic) with that other species.

 

But scientists have not come up with suitable shared language for most species, we cannot communicate with them in any meaningful way and therefore we inevitably conclude that those species are not conscious.

 

There fore I repeat that any test will likely involve a series of different tests that yields a score of consciousness.

 

I disagree; there are tests or standards for measuring aspects of consciousness which, I believe, is set by humanity itself. The only species in which we are likely able to fully determine consciousness is our own. We can determine whether other species have some level of consciousness equivalent to our own through tests based on our understanding of the human measures for consciousness; e.g, a standard test for self-awareness through the use of mirrors. We have use such test on our infants to determine at what stage they develope signs of self-awareness and on primates to determine a similar distinction. Therefore, language is not our only means for understanding or conveying consciousness. We use the non-verbal tests proven for our species to give us evidence of what cognitive skills other species may have. Whatever skills we find similar to our own in other species are evidence for consciousness. From a neurological perspective, much of what we understand about the nature of human brain function has been determine through animal tests and studies, from fish to fowl to primate. This in itself is evidence of some equilvalency between humanity and other species inclusive of consciousness.

Edited by DrmDoc
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How does religion have anything to do with whether other species are conscious or not?

 

Religion has nothing to do with a species being conscious, but it has a great deal to do with people's attitudes towards other species and whether or not they believe them to be conscious.

 

Not many of us these daya are religious but we still bare some of the traditional christian attitudes concerning the dominant position of mankind in nature and the subordinate position of all other species.

 

I disagree; there are tests or standards for measuring aspects of consciousness which, I believe, is set by humanity itself. The only species in which we are likely able to fully determine consciousness is our own. We can determine whether other species have some level of consciousness equivalent to our own through tests based on our understanding of the human measures for consciousness; e.g, a standard test for self-awareness through the use of mirrors. We have use such test on our infants to determine at what stage they develope signs of self-awareness and on primates to determine a similar distinction. Therefore, language is not our only means for understanding or conveying consciousness. We use the non-verbal tests proven for our species to give us evidence of what cognitive skills other species may have. Whatever skills we find similar to our own in other species are evidence for consciousness. From a neurological perspective, much of what we understand about the nature of human brain function has been determine through animal tests and studies, from fish to fowl to primate. This in itself is evidence of some equilvalency between humanity and other species inclusive of consciousness.

 

I specifically meant various forms of language (verbal, body, symbolic,.....) not just our verbal language. For example there is a dog in one of the scandinavian countries that has a huge 'vocabularly' based on digrams of various objects that she can recognize as specific objects that the owner wants her to fetch.

Not photos but symbolic diagrams.

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Religion has nothing to do with a species being conscious, but it has a great deal to do with people's attitudes towards other species and whether or not they believe them to be conscious.

 

Not many of us these daya are religious but we still bare some of the traditional christian attitudes concerning the dominant position of mankind in nature and the subordinate position of all other species.

 

 

 

I specifically meant various forms of language (verbal, body, symbolic,.....) not just our verbal language. For example there is a dog in one of the scandinavian countries that has a huge 'vocabularly' based on digrams of various objects that she can recognize as specific objects that the owner wants her to fetch.

Not photos but symbolic diagrams.

I agree; behavior and behavioral responses to non-verbal cognitive tests are indeed another way we are able to assess the equivalent cognitive skills of other species.

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I agree; behavior and behavioral responses to non-verbal cognitive tests are indeed another way we are able to assess the equivalent cognitive skills of other species.

 

That is another problem. Is conscious totally seperate and distinct from cognitive skills or are they linked?

If seperate how the hell do you design tests that are not purely testing cognitive skills? The mirror test in my view is a test of cognitive skills, i.e. the ape on the other side of the glass does everything I do therefore it must be me.

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...Given that there are animals that are definately not aware, a duck for instance. This would automatically mean we can create a linear graph, unaware at the begining and humans (conceted I know but what else) at the finnish.

 

My question is this, what type of animal is just aware. My thinking is perhaps an octopus it's a problem solveing animal but has to relearn the problem however many times it's presented.

 

In his book I Am A strange Loop, Douglas Hofstader draws a downward pointing cone as a graph for self-awareness. the lower on the cone the less "soul" [say self awareness] a creature has. he labels the unit value "hunekers" after James Huneker who wrote a line containing the phrase "small souled men". Hofstadter rates dogs as having fewer hunekers than people, but more than mosquitoes. one has to make their own assesment about where each creature lies.

 

the graph reads the same in a mirror, which would definitely please Hofstader even if he did not intend it. ;)

Edited by Acme
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In his book I Am A strange Loop, Douglas Hofstader draws a downward pointing cone as a graph for self-awareness. the lower on the cone the less "soul" [say self awareness] a creature has. he labels the unit value "hunekers" after James Huneker who wrote a line containing the phrase "small souled men". Hofstadter rates dogs as having fewer hunekers than people, but more than mosquitoes. one has to make their own assesment about where each creature lies.

 

the graph reads the same in a mirror, which would definitely please Hofstader even if he did not intend it. ;)

 

 

Thanks I'll look it up.:)

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Thanks I'll look it up.:)

 

You're welcome. :) I recommend buying & reading the book as snippets here & there do not convey the whole of the ideas and arguments concerning I. Be forwarned it is not the kind of reading for persons of small souls. ;) Enjoy. :)

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That is another problem. Is conscious totally seperate and distinct from cognitive skills or are they linked?

If seperate how the hell do you design tests that are not purely testing cognitive skills? The mirror test in my view is a test of cognitive skills, i.e. the ape on the other side of the glass does everything I do therefore it must be me.

I believe the solution to that problem resides in a basis algebraic expression that is a basis of logic thought: If a=b and b=c, then a=c. Cognitive skills (a) are evidence of some reasoning process (b) and reasoning (b) is evidence of consciousness (c); therefore, cognitive skills (a) are evidence of consciousness (c). In my opinion, there is very little distinction between cognitive skills and consciousness.

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