Do animals have a "sense of self"?

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by willakitty, Mar 14, 2001.

  1. willakitty Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    48
    This one's for you, Typha! Your thread got me started, now everyone will have to suffer once again at the mercy of my ramblings...I'll try to keep it glued togethor this time...
    What do we know about animals and their behavior in accordance with the infamous "sense of self" that supposedly separates man from beast?
    I would think upon first reflection that animals do not have a sense of self. They don't recognize their reflections of the mirror. Wouldn't anything with a sense of self recognize itself in a mirror? Then I wonder if they don't. Afterall, the mirror was created by self centered human beings wasn't it?
    Besides that animals react to things like hunger, fatigue, and fear just like humans. But if you look at each individually, you'll see that isn't really proof. I mean, when a thing is hungry, it eats regardless. If a being is hungry it contemplates its hunger as it searches for its meal. A thing would eat to appease the hunger itself, not the desire it has(n't) to sustain itself. Tired? Any animal will lay right down and go to sleep without a thought as to why. But what about us? We lay down and think about why we're tired, what we did to fatigue ourselves. Fear, better referred to as self-preservation? Hmmm...that would be close, but it's still a no go. The whole theory could be chalked up to instinct and nothing more. Of course, when face with a life threatening situation any creature will do anything to survive, unharmed if possible. Humans because we like living. Animals...I would think because they have the natural desire to pass on their DNA as many times as possible. Of course, EVERYONE wants to do that, but it is different. I want to live. I like being alive and aware of my wants and choosing to go out and cater to them. An animal has an unending mission to procreate as many times as possible while its alive. If it is harmed, it would be difficult to flee from further danger, feed itself, or ultimately live any longer. It has no desire to live for itself; only for the future of its genes. I don't want to get hurt, because, well... because it'll hurt!
    Now, I have it! The answer you've all been waiting in breathless anticipation for!...
    TERRITORY...is the answer. If a thing has its own territory and effectively protects it, then it must have a sense of self to some degree! "This is MY territory. Stay away from what belongs to ME. I marked this for MY OWN." Still not convinced? How 'bout this...
    Studies done regarding the development of toddlers show that most children don't begin to develop their sense of self until around the time they begin to talk. They run phrases like "I want, give me, that's mine" into the ground; all you older siblings have heard it! Upon realizing that they're separate from their environment and those around them, they begin to exercise their (lack of) people skills and ownership. And on top of it all, I have a 5-month old nephew (Jao'Jao) that is JUST beginning to show any interest in his reflection in the mirror...just about the time he's beginning to show possessiveness about his teething ring and binky (any ravers out there?). May the Lord help ANYone who takes his ring and starts to get any kind of amusement out of it...Anyway, I have talked my side. Let's hear it, all!
    You kick total ass, Typha! I'm expecting to hear from you...
     
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  3. Gambit Star Universal Entity Registered Senior Member

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    317
    My friend, we are no different, think about this.

    If a human child was to be born "in the wild" by itself, and to live and find its own food, would it eventuate to being so similar to a child that was born in a society surrounding it ? I think not....

    In my point of view we are no different from anything else on this world, we are just one step ahead of some others, given the chance of time, everything on the earth will evolve to a similar state of social thought exchange.

    Animals, insects and plant life in particular are extremely intellegent, they just mearely live on a different plain of existance that cannot be comprehended by ours.
    Here are some examples of other intellegence

    Ants work for a colony that they "have not" been told to create.
    How animals move to the warmer areas during the seasons.
    How cats and dogs are happy to live under the "rule" of a human being.

    ...and how plant life, no matter how much we hurt it, still remains faithful and creates the air that we breathe and the food we eat.
     
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  5. Skylark Registered Senior Member

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    55
    I would think upon first reflection that animals do not have a sense of self. They don't recognize their reflections of the mirror. Wouldn't anything with a sense of self recognize itself in a mirror?

    While flying cross country last month I picked up At the Water's Edge by Carl Zimmer to read. IIRC chimps, orangutans, and dolphins recognize their reflections (apes do not). He went into a good bit of detail on the dolphin experiments with mirrors.
     
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  7. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    51,740
    Skylark, aren't chimps and orangutans apes?

    Anyway, willakitty, you have a sense of self, and you're an animal, so why shouldn't other placental mammals?
     
  8. Votorx Egotistic... Valued Senior Member

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    1,126
    Gambit a child who was born in the wild by itself probably wouldn't last a week. As seen in most animals they are taught how to fend for themselves and if a human child could somehow last long enough and become mature enough, he/she would be able to learn how to fend for themselves through trial/error meanwhile, another animal in the same situation would not. I believe the only really he would be able to teach himself is because we are self aware and we do have a higher level of rationality while other animals do not.
     
  9. Skylark Registered Senior Member

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    55
    Spidergoat,

    That should be "gorillas do not" recognize their reflections.
     
  10. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    51,740
    Is recognizing your reflection the same thing as a sense of self?
     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    How would any animal recognize his own face? Where would he have seen it before? Humans are taught to use mirrors for grooming and hygiene from a very early age, so they learn what they look like. Animals don't go through that learning stage.

    Many animals, especially the social ones, have a very well developed ability to recognize other individuals of their species. The ones they see every day. But they never see themselves! How could they? Unless they have an exceptionally clear, still lake to look into from a close distance -- and they're not distracted by the likelihood of predators stopping by -- they don't have much chance to become familiar with their own faces.

    Humans can recognize themselves because our distant ancestors invented mirrors. Before that, they made do with the drawings of the more talented members of the tribe. No other species of animal has accomplished either one of those things.

    Being able to recognize your face is not a condition of self awareness. It's a benefit of technology.
     
  12. §outh§tar is feeling caustic Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,832
    Nope.

    Imagine for a minute that there is a zombie. Now zombies do not have a consciousness.The zombie is walking around (like all zombies do) and happens to walk infront of a mirror. Even though the zombie brain can process the reflection and recognize that the body and the reflection are the same, the zombie has no sense of self with which to be aware of its reflection.

    I probably did a very poor job explaining it so I would highly recommend reading this

    And here also if you are further interested.
     
  13. §outh§tar is feeling caustic Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,832
    Very true.
     
  14. zyncod Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    87
    I would have to say that the ability to recognize one's own face is endemic to "higher" organisms. Given that monkeys and apes almost depend upon social interactions, it is not extraordinary that they (and us) evolved a neuronal structure given to the visual representation of highly encountered objects. In most people/primates this structure responds to faces; in car fanatics it responds to faces/outlines of cars. This indicates the response of this neuronal structure to the objects in nature most important to the individual.
    The fact that "lower" organisms do not present self-awareness as far as a mirror goes is not as much testament to lower mentality as it is to a social structure dependent less upon visual cues than others. If you look at any of the "higher" primates, you will note a hierarchical social position that requires the visual discrimination between the individuals within the social structure. Looking at, say, dogs, for a counter-example, there is a social structure, but it is much more fluid, and recognition of individuals for dogs depends less upon facial features than it does upon the confluidity of scent (I am referring to scent areas upon different parts of the dog, as anyone who has had a dog will know). If you presented the dog Trooper, say, with exactly his own scent, on a mirror image of himself, you might find that Trooper recognized himself, in "the mirror," as we might say.
    We, as humans with the "superior intellect" simply fill an ecological niche that has never before been filled. To describe this niche as anything more than terestrially unique is absurd. In fact, "superior" intellect has been as much of a liabilty as an asset. If there is anyone here that thinks the human race will survive out 10 million years in any form (given our essential natural frailty - we could not hand-to-hand take on a mountain lion, bear, or even a cat if our lives depended upon it), plus what we are doing to ourselves (environmental damage, prospects of nuclear/biological war, among others)), I will hand to him/her the Star of Naivete. And yet, there are many species that survived not only the 12 my envelope but the 70 my envelope (crocodiles and coelacanths, to mention but a few).
    Anyway, Man is neither unique nor intelligent.
    Challenges will be appreciated,
    Brian
     
  15. skumara Registered Member

    Messages:
    13
    I strongly belive that animals do have a sense of self. But what is the evidence say about that?

    Did anyone proved it through any research. Everything animals do is orientated towards their survival from day to day. do they work for their future?

    all animals as far as i know don't think about their future. They eat and protect themself from danger as they live on that day. The next day is just another day of rutine activity for them.
     
  16. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    51,740
    I agree, zyncod. That means that sense of self is really the product of sensing others in a social environment. It would be superfluous for an independent creature. I think the lack of a sense of self, the original mindplan, can be rediscovered in our brains. It could explain the phenomenon of enlightenment.
     
  17. geistkiesel Valued Senior Member

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    2,471
    First you must prove that the brain functions as you believe. You must prove that the brain is more than a receiving device for mental activity, such as a televison set. When a TV circuit goes awry the expected station is not received, rather the expected takes a different form and confusion and mental pathologies enter into the picture.

    Geistkiesel
     
  18. geistkiesel Valued Senior Member

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    2,471
    Crap. A spear chucker getting a drink from a still pool of water sees his reflection and his hunting partner's reflection also. This spear chucker recognizes his partner in the reflection, and ergo concludes in spear chucker consciousness that his image is that next to his partner's recognized reflection. Technology? I don't think so. Who is to say the little tot spear chuckers momma showed her babe's reflection to the babe. Prpbably could use the same pool of water as poppa's.

    Southstar did you ever think about thinking for yourself, being original, making mistakes, hunting until eternity comes around to stare you in the face?

    Try it, it will scare the shit right out of you.

    Geistkiesel
     
  19. geistkiesel Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,471
    You are elling us that human ability to draw little figures on the wall is a benefit that elevate humanity over lions and tigers?, N=Both of which have no usem , desire or value placed in human forms of art. Lions and tigers play, nap take instructions from momma lion, hunt, copulate, grow old and die. So what is the big deal?

    Every time the momma lion puts her mouth to the still pool of water she sees her reflection. Who is to say mamma lion doesn't remember? Have you ever seen lions hunting, zebras, for instance? The lions station the pride in the best position to nab the zebra usually selected from a lame or newly born or carelss zebra. The lions reconize much more in their invironment than any human with a pocket full of PhD degrees and many fistfulls of publicaions of material that no lion would consider usefull, relevant or true, hence lions ignore PhD because they recognize the PhD's uselessness.
    Placing so much emphaziz on "self rfecognition" wopuld cripple lions and tigers, as such thoughts do not aid in hunting or fleeing from some rich fuckng Texans who paid big bucks for the purpose of hunting momma lion because this fucking asshole needs confirmation of his thirty-six inch prick.

    Geiostkiesel

    Geistkiesel
     
  20. geistkiesel Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,471
    You are elling us that human ability to draw little figures on the wall is a benefit that elevate humanity over lions and tigers?, N=Both of which have no usem , desire or value placed in human forms of art. Lions and tigers play, nap take instructions from momma lion, hunt, copulate, grow old and die. So what is the big deal?

    Every time the momma lion puts her mouth to the still pool of water she sees her reflection. Who is to say mamma lion doesn't remember? Have you ever seen lions hunting, zebras, for instance? The lions station the pride in the best position to nab the zebra usually selected from a lame or newly born or carelss zebra. The lions reconize much more in their invironment than any human with a pocket full of PhD degrees and many fistfulls of publicaions of material that no lion would consider usefull, relevant or true, hence lions ignore PhD because they recognize the PhD's uselessness.
    Placing so much emphaziz on "self rfecognition" would cripple lions and tigers, as such thoughts do not aid in hunting or fleeing from some rich fuckng Texans who paid big bucks for the purpose of hunting momma lion because this fucking asshole needs confirmation of his thirty-six inch prick.

    Geistkiesel

    Geistkiesel
     
  21. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    51,740
    Why do I have to do this again? I don't know for sure how the brain functions, but autistics seem to lack the empathy required for social skills and seem to also lack a clear sense of self. That's why they "stim" or perform repeated actions over and over, to feel grounded in their bodies.

    I think the brain and mental activity are the same thing.

    I'm confused. I don't think a sense of self is required to function. Plenty of creatures get along just fine without it.
     
  22. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    In a social species like lions, it would probably only be the alpha who gets to stick her snoot into a still pool of water. By the time the other members of the pride take their turns, she has already made ripples and nobody else is going to have a clear reflection.

    So perhaps the ability to recognize oneself becomes a second-order alpha trait.

    Not all animals, even social ones, have good enough eyesight to be able to recognize themselves even if they were wearing a beanie with a propeller. Dogs, for example, have simply horrible vision. The "keenest-eyed" breeds like poodles and retrievers would probably measure out at the equivalent of 20/100 if we could administer the test. The average dog is probably more like 20/200. And then there are the dogs at the opposite end of the scale like our Lhasa Apsos, the only way I can describe their eyesight accurately in human terms would be "legally blind." They can't recognize me from a few feet away, they certainly would not be able to recognize their own reflection in a pool of water. Unless it was glassy smooth,. And since one of them would probably have already stumbled into the pool because he didn't see it, it would never be that still.

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