Is Self Awareness Uniquely Human?

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    • 00:04

      [Is Self Awareness Uniquely Human?]

    • 00:11

      STEVE JOORDENS: Hello.My name is Steve Joordens. [Steve Joordens, Professor,Department of Psychology, University of Toronto]I am director of the Advanced Learning Technologies Lab.And I also teach Introduction to Psychology hereat the University of Toronto.In this video, we're going to talk about oneof my favorite topics.And that's self awareness.And I like this topic because of the challengeit poses for psychologists.You see in psychology today, we very much

    • 00:32

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: embrace the scientific method.And what that means is we want to arrive at the understandingswe do through experiments that really should test our theoriesand ultimately identify which theories are accurateand which are not.Now, self-awareness, of course, is a very difficult topicto study because it is intrinsically subjective.

    • 00:55

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: It's something that we all feel.But it's very hard to share with others.So when we see ourselves in a mirror, for example,we recognize that as ourselves.Pictures, we recognize that.But what is that recognition?And how can I tell if some other individual is experiencingthe same kind of thing?[Studying self-awareness]

    • 01:20

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: For many days in psychology, these sorts of topicswere just considered forbidden.At the time of behaviorism, we were onlysupposed to study things we could measure objectively,stimulate, we could manipulate, behaviors we could actuallysee happening.Self-recognition is not one of those.And for many years, it was considered inappropriate even

    • 01:43

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: to talk about concepts like self-recognition.However, for me, my whole notion of thischanged quite dramatically when somebodynamed Gordon Gallup came to the universitywhere I was at and gave a talk about his researchon self-recognition.In fact, he convinced me that maybe it couldbe studied scientifically.

    • 02:04

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: [Gordon Gallup's mirror test]So I want to tell you his story.And I will tell it as a story, because Ithink it works best this way.The way Gordon tells the story is the following.He had a student working with him who had to complete a PhD.This student wasn't sure what topic to actually follow up on.

    • 02:29

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: And theoretically, he was shaving in the morning,looking in the mirror, shaving, and had this bizarre idea.He looked at the mirror, and he thought about the following.There are no mirrors in the real world.Not really.There are maybe still bodies of waterwhere, say, an animal might see its reflection.

    • 02:50

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: But for the most part, mirrors are a human creation.But we use them in very strategic tool ways.For example, when we're shaving, wemight be checking to make sure we haven't nicked ourselves.Or, a woman might be checking her makeup and making sureit's right.These are all ways of interacting with our self.

    • 03:11

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: And so as the story goes, his studentasked themselves a question.[What would animals do if we exposed them to mirrors?]What would animals do if you exposed them to mirrors?So, they had access to an animal research lab.And they went about hanging mirrorsin every animals' cage or pen, just to ask what would happen.

    • 03:32

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: And what they found was, depending on the animal,one of the three steps were accomplished for all animals.[Stages of the mirror study]The very first stage is one of reactingto the reflection of themselves asthough it was another member of their species.So, let's imagine a bird.A bird sees a reflection in the mirror.The first thing that bird thinks is, there's

    • 03:53

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: another bird in this cage.And it reacts to its reflection, howeverit would react to another member of its species beingintroduced.However, he quickly gets over that,once it learns that this reflection in the mirroris not right.It doesn't behave like other members of its species do.

    • 04:14

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: Then it either gets hung up on it and keeps thinking of itas another member of a species.Or it reaches what we call a state of habituation.And what that means is it's kind of like the animal says,I don't know what that thing is, but itdoesn't predict anything good is going to happen.It doesn't predict anything bad is going to happen.

    • 04:36

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: And so eventually, they just ignore the reflection.It's like it's not even there.That's stage two.And many animals reach that.However interestingly, a few animals reach stage three.And the classic example in the Gallup story were chimpanzees.They hung the mirrors.And eventually, the chimpanzees started to use the mirrors.

    • 05:01

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: They started to do things like this, and look at their teethinside their mouth, a place they could not normally see.They turned around and stuck their butts in the mirrorand looked over their shoulder at their rear-ends.Again, something they didn't see.And don't tell me you haven't done the same thing.I don't believe you.So they were using the mirror as a tool,

    • 05:23

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: as a vehicle for, well, what?What Gordon Gallup and his student saidwas a vehicle for self inspection.And in order to inspect yourself,you have to have a concept of yourself.And so Gordon and his student arguedthat this was a great example of self-recognition.

    • 05:45

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: [Self-recognition]That the chimpanzee clearly recognizedthat reflection was a reflection of itselfand was using the mirror in a very tool-like way.All right.So then, what they did was take this sort of general thingthey've done of hanging mirrors and formalized thatinto an official scientific paradigm.And it would work as follows.

    • 06:05

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: [Scientifically studying self recognition]They would first take any animal.But let's stick with the chimps for now.They would take this animal and they wouldlet them get used to a mirror.So they would hang a mirror in the cage,let the animal go through as many stages as it could.And once they thought the animal was very comfortablewith its reflection, they would thenwait until the animal had to be anesthetized for some reason.

    • 06:27

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: In every research lab, there's usuallydental work or various other thingsthat have to be done that requireus to anesthetized the animal.And so when they anesthetized the animal,they then did the following.Let's see how this works.I have a bit of lipstick.Let's say I'm out cold.Now I'm being anesthetized.But, the researcher could put a mark

    • 06:49

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: on one ear lobe, let's say.And a mark on one eyebrow area, like this.These marks would be done with somethingthat was odorless, that didn't cause any tactile feelings,didn't have any smell.Nothing that an animal would detect.And so the animal now would wake up.

    • 07:09

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: It would have these marks on its face, as I do now.But it shouldn't have any way of even knowingit has marks on its face.And so now, you allow the animal to recover and expose itto the mirror.And now, it's the first time the animal has seen its reflectionwith the marks in the mirror.And the question is, what does it do.

    • 07:30

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: When it sees itself, what does it do?And what they found was, well, here's the scientific stuff.They actually asked, OK, they're going to touch themselves,and we expect them to touch their marks.But the nice thing about this procedure here is we now havea brow ridge that has a mark and a brow ridge that doesn't.

    • 07:51

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: And an earlobe that has a mark and an earlobe that doesn't.And so, what they did was just count.How often did the animals touch those four places?And what they found was the animalstouched this and this a lot.Like five or six times more than they touched this or this.

    • 08:11

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: So basically, the animal was doing this,what do I have on my face?What is that on my ear?That's certainly the perception thatwas given of what was going on.And again, the notion is then, wecan scientifically count these things.And we can say, OK, for any animal thatshows preference or interest in these marks on it, that

    • 08:35

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: must be evidence that it has a sense of itself.It is recognizing itself.OK.So we have a nice procedure now, perhaps,for measuring self-recognition.You'll notice through the magic of video,my marks are now disappeared, which is good,allowing me to continue.So basically, this procedure that I just told you about,

    • 08:56

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: sometimes called the Rouge Test, because typically red marksare used, as I just did.Sometimes called the Mirror Test.This has now been applied to many different animalsand also to children.And what we found is that it's incrediblehow many different animals seem to have or at least beable to pass this basic test of self-recognition.

    • 09:17

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: [Animals that pass]There's the usual suspects in the primate family-- chimps,bonobos, orangutans, humans-- humans as long as they'rea year and a half or older.But also, there's like mammals-- elephants.OK.A lot of us think elephants are intelligent.But what about pigs?Well, pigs seem to recognize themselves.If we look in the cetaceans, dolphins and orca

    • 09:39

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: seem to pass this test quite well.Birds-- magpies pass the test.Parrots don't, which is a little surprising because parrotsare extremely intelligent.So there's some surprises in here, as well.And I like to highlight this last one-- ants.Ants pass this test.I have no idea who stuck the little tiny lipstickon the ant's face.But in a version of the test created for ants,

    • 10:02

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: they also show evidence of self-recognition.What this list suggests to us is that thereare some surprising entries, especially the antsand the magpies.And I'm pretty sure, by the way, if you could everfind a way to do this with octopus,they would likely show self-recognitionbecause they're incredibly intelligent critters, as well.

    • 10:22

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: And it really throws doubt into this whole ideathat there's something uniquely human about self-recognition.It appears that it's out there in the animal world.Now, there are some animals that don't pass.And to some extent, these are surprising.Here's two of the most surprising.[Animals that fail]Those of us who love dogs-- I certainly lovedogs-- they tend not to pass.

    • 10:44

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: In fact, they tend to only hit step two of those steps Itold you about.Often, dogs, if they see themselvesin the mirror the first time or if they'resurprised by their reflection, they might bark at it.They might act like it's another dog.But if you have a house that has a mirrorthat the dog can see itself in regularly,very often that dog will just ignore its own reflection.

    • 11:07

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: And you can often not even make the dog pay attentionto its own reflection.It's just like it's not there.So they habituate and they often stop there.So they don't pass the self-recognition test.Also, gorillas.I mentioned chimps, bonobos, orangutans.They all pass.What about gorillas?Gorillas know sign language.We can teach them sign language.

    • 11:28

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: They do all these fantastic things.They don't pass.Well, what some people said is wehave to be careful interpreting a failure as a failureof self-recognition.So when an animal passes, that's pretty interesting.If they don't pass, it might be for strange reasons.So for example, dogs are very much focused on smell.

    • 11:52

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: That's their primary sensory organ,that's where they get most of their sensory information.And so maybe a visual reflection isn't that impressive to a dog.But maybe if we could put its own smell somewherewhere it shouldn't be, that might be interesting to a dog.And that might show a self-recognition

    • 12:12

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: in terms of recognizing its own smell.And especially if that smell is somehowin a place where it shouldn't be.And so what we take from this is just because an animal doesn'tpass does not necessarily mean they lack self-recognition.So for example, another example is gorillas.One of the dominant theories about gorillasis that gorillas in fact do self-recognize

    • 12:34

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: but they just don't care.They look and they go, hey, I have a mark on my face.So what.And they never touch the mark.And it's just not an important stimulus for them.So again, just because they don't pass,that doesn't mean they don't have self-recognition,which suddenly means, well, maybe every animal

    • 12:54

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: has self-recognition.Or maybe a lot of them do.[Implications for science and beyond]So what are the implications if that's true?Well, of course, there's general implications.We often as humans use animals in various ways in our food

    • 13:15

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: industry, in our clothing industry,even testing in our cosmetic industry.If they possess self-recognition,we could really ask ourselves, is that warranted?Is it justified?Is it reasonable for us to be doing these thingsto other animals who understand themselves and who they are?

    • 13:36

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: And it's not just a question for us in our real world.It's also a question for science.I started this video by saying how much psychologyembraces the scientific method.Well, in fact, part of our scientific approachis via what we call our ethical codes, whichgovern the things we're allowed to do and not

    • 13:57

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: to do in a research context.And we in fact have two sets of codes.[Ethical codes]One that applies to humans.And one that applies to animals.And in fact, in research settings,we will allow researchers to do thingsto animals that we would never allow them to do to humans.They would be considered unethical.But is that justified?

    • 14:19

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: Should we have two codes?Or should all living things be treatedin the same ethical way?That is, what is the difference thatmakes it OK to do something to an animalthat you would consider not OK when done to a human?This research on self-recognitionchallenge that and make us think about that a lot deeper.

    • 14:41

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: All right.So I hope this has made you think a little differently whenyou look in the mirror.Next time you're staring in the mirror,think what are you using the mirror for.And if other animals would do the same thing, whatdoes that say about them and how we should treat them?Little food for thought.Thanks.Bye bye.

    • 15:02

      STEVE JOORDENS [continued]: [Reflective Questions]

Is Self Awareness Uniquely Human?

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Abstract

Professor Steve Joordens discusses self-awareness in humans and other animals. Gordon Gallup studied self-recognition by introducing animals to mirrors; his results showed that many animals do have self-awareness. This raises questions about ethical codes and animal experimentation.

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Is Self Awareness Uniquely Human?

Professor Steve Joordens discusses self-awareness in humans and other animals. Gordon Gallup studied self-recognition by introducing animals to mirrors; his results showed that many animals do have self-awareness. This raises questions about ethical codes and animal experimentation.

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