Cynthia Wicklund Biography & Facts
In philosophy of self, self-awareness is the experience of one's own personality or individuality. It is not to be confused with consciousness in the sense of qualia. While consciousness is being aware of one's environment and body and lifestyle, self-awareness is the recognition of that awareness. Self-awareness is how an individual consciously knows and understands their own character, feelings, motives, and desires.
There are questions regarding what part of the brain allows us to be self-aware and how we are biologically programmed to be self-aware. V.S. Ramachandran has speculated that mirror neurons may provide the neurological basis of human self-awareness. In an essay written for the Edge Foundation in 2009, Ramachandran gave the following explanation of his theory: "... I also speculated that these neurons can not only help simulate other people's behavior but can be turned 'inward'—as it were—to create second-order representations or meta-representations of your own earlier brain processes. This could be the neural basis of introspection, and of the reciprocity of self awareness and other awareness. There is obviously a chicken-or-egg question here as to which evolved first, but... The main point is that the two co-evolved, mutually enriching each other to create the mature representation of self that characterizes modern humans."
Bodily (self-)awareness is related to proprioception and visualization.
In health and medicine, body awareness is a construct that refers to a person's overall ability to direct their focus on various internal sensations accurately. Both proprioception and interoception allow individuals to be consciously aware of multiple sensations. Proprioception allows individuals and patients to focus on sensations in their muscles and joints, posture, and balance, while interoception is used to determine sensations of the internal organs, such as fluctuating heartbeat, respiration, lung pain, or satiety. Over-acute body-awareness, under-acute body-awareness, and distorted body-awareness are symptoms present in a variety of health disorders and conditions, such as obesity, anorexia nervosa, and chronic joint pain. For example, a distorted perception of satiety present in a patient suffering from anorexia nervosa.
Bodily self-awareness in human development refers to one's awareness of their body as a physical object, with physical properties, that can interact with other objects. Tests have shown that at the age of only a few months old, toddlers are already aware of the relationship between the proprioceptive and visual information they receive. This is called first-person self-awareness.
At around 18 months old and later, children begin to develop reflective self-awareness, which is the next stage of bodily awareness and involves children recognizing themselves in reflections, mirrors, and pictures. Children who have not obtained this stage of bodily self-awareness yet will tend to view reflections of themselves as other children and respond accordingly, as if they were looking at someone else face to face. In contrast, those who have reached this level of awareness will recognize that they see themselves, for instance seeing dirt on their face in the reflection and then touching their own face to wipe it off.
Slightly after toddlers become reflectively self-aware, they begin to develop the ability to recognize their bodies as physical objects in time and space that interact and impact other objects. For instance, a toddler placed on a blanket, when asked to hand someone the blanket, will recognize that they need to get off it to be able to lift it. This is the final stage of body self-awareness and is called objective self-awareness.
The most relevant conducted "mirror tests" have been done on chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins and magpies.
Chimpanzees and other apes – species which have been studied extensively – compare the most to humans with the most convincing findings and straightforward evidence in the relativity of self-awareness in animals so far.
Dolphins were put to a similar test and achieved the same results. Diana Reiss, a psycho-biologist at the New York Aquarium discovered that bottlenose dolphins can recognize themselves in mirrors.
Researchers also used the mark test or mirror test to study the magpie's self-awareness. As a majority of birds are blind below the beak, Prior et al. marked the birds' neck with three different colors: red, yellow, and black (as an imitation, as magpies are originally black). When placed in front of a mirror, the birds with the red and yellow spots began scratching at their necks, signaling the understanding of something different being on their bodies. During one trial with a mirror and a mark, three out of the five magpies showed a minimum of one example of self-directed behavior. The magpies explored the mirror by moving toward it and looking behind it. One of the magpies, Harvey, during several trials would pick up objects, pose, do some wing-flapping, all in front of the mirror with the objects in his beak. This represents a sense of self-awareness; knowing what is going on within himself and in the present. The authors suggest that self-recognition in birds and mammals may be a case of convergent evolution, where similar evolutionary pressures result in similar behaviors or traits, although they arrive at them via different routes.A few slight occurrences of behavior towards the magpie's own body happened in the trial with the black mark and the mirror. It is assumed in this study that the black mark may have been slightly visible on the black feathers. Prior et al. stated, "This is an indirect support for the interpretation that the behavior towards the mark region was elicited by seeing the own body in the mirror in conjunction with an unusual spot on the body."
The behaviors of the magpies clearly contrasted with no mirror present. In the no-mirror trials, a non-reflective gray plate of the same size and in the same position as the mirror was swapped in. There were not any mark directed self-behaviors when the mark was present, in color, or in black Prior's et al. data quantitatively matches the findings in chimpanzees. In summary of the mark test, the results show that magpies understand that a mirror image represents their own body; magpies show to have self-awareness.
The four stages in the mirror test
During the test, the experimenter looks for the animals to undergo four stages:
physical mirror inspection,
repetitive mirror testing behavior, and
the mark test, which involves the animals spontaneously touching a mark on their body which would have been difficult to see without the mirror.Three "types" of self-awareness
David DeGrazia states that there are three types of self-awareness in animals.
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