Psyche

To do with our psychology

Self-awareness not unique to mankind

 Self-awareness not unique to mankind  Psyche, Recently  Comments Off on Self-awareness not unique to mankind
Jun 182015
 

Humans are unlikely to be the only animal capable of self-awareness, a new study has shown.

Conducted by University of Warwick researchers, the study found that humans and other animals capable of mentally simulating environments require at least a primitive sense of self. The finding suggests that any animal that can simulate environments must have a form of self-awareness.

Often viewed as one of man’s defining characteristics, the study strongly suggests that self-awareness is not unique to mankind and is instead likely to be common among animals.

The researchers, from the University of Warwick’s Departments of Psychology and Philosophy, used thought experiments to discover which capabilities animals must have in order to mentally simulate their environment.

Commenting on the research Professor Thomas Hills, study co-author from Warwick’s Department of Psychology, said: “The study’s key insight is that those animals capable of simulating their future actions must be able to distinguish between their imagined actions and those that are actually experienced.”

The researchers were inspired by work conducted in the 1950s on maze navigation in rats. It was observed that rats, at points in the maze that required them to make decisions on what they would do next, often stopped and appeared to deliberate over their future actions.

Recent neuroscience research found that at these ‘choice points’ rats and other vertebrates activate regions of their hippocampus that appear to simulate choices and their potential outcomes.

Professor Hills and Professor Stephen Butterfill, from Warwick’s Department of Philosophy, created different descriptive models to explain the process behind the rat’s deliberation at the ‘choice points’.

One model, the Naive Model, assumed that animals inhibit action during simulation. However, this model created false memories because the animal would be unable to tell the differences between real and imagined actions.

A second, the Self-actuating Model, was able to solve this problem by ‘tagging’ real versus imagined experience. Hills and Butterfill called this tagging the ‘primal self’.

Commenting on the finding the Professor Hills, said: “The study answers a very old question: do animals have a sense of self? Our first aim was to understand the recent neural evidence that animals can project themselves into the future. What we wound up understanding is that, in order to do so, they must have a primal sense of self.

“As such, humans must not be the only animal capable of self-awareness. Indeed, the answer we are led to is that anything, even robots, that can adaptively imagine themselves doing what they have not yet done, must be able to separate the knower from the known.”

The study, From foraging to autonoetic consciousness: The primal self as a consequence of embodied prospective foraging, is published by Current Zoology.

Source: University of Warwick

Apr 232015
 

Most California residents facing psychological distress do not perceive the public as being supportive, with a large proportion reporting discrimination both in personal relationships and in public realms such as the workplace, according to a new RAND Corporation study. Just 41 percent of those surveyed believe that people are caring and sympathetic to those with

Apr 072015
 

Movie villains from Norman Bates to Hannibal Lecter have popularized the notion of the psychopath as cold, cruel, lacking in empathy and beyond the reach of treatment.
A new study in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology suggests that this monolithic view, shared by some treatment professionals, is not only wrong but prevents many diagnosed with psychopathy, or precursors of it, from receiving therapies that could help them live happier, more productive lives.

Mar 272015
 

Can the consumption of fatty foods change your behavior and your brain? High-fat diets have long been known to increase the risk for medical problems, including heart disease and stroke, but there is growing concern that diets high in fat might also increase the risk for depression and other psychiatric disorders. A new study published

Understanding loneliness through science

 Understanding loneliness through science  Psyche, Recently  Comments Off on Understanding loneliness through science
Mar 132015
 

Loneliness may be a fundamental part of the human condition, but scientists have only recently begun exploring its causes, consequences, and potential interventions. A special section in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, aims to bring these strands of inquiry together, presenting a series of articles that review the

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