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What can metacognition in animals tell us about consciousness?

  1. May 12, 2004 #1
    What can "metacognition" in animals tell us about consciousness?

    Humans are able to feel uncertainty. They know when they know something and when they don't. This capacity for 'metacognition' (thinking about thinking), or cognitive self-awareness, is thought to be one of humans' most sophisticated cognitive capacities and to be linked to our reflective consciousness. One of the important questions in the field of animal and human psychology is whether this metacognitive capacity is uniquely human, or whether nonverbal, nonhuman animal species have a level of metacognition that approaches that of humans.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 15, 2004 #2
    Everyone has had time to think about this, so I will get off my shoulders what I have been thinking about.

    Well, I have long pondered what, is going on in an animals mind. If you have been around animals and are very observant, you will notice things you might not normally, if you really want to find something. Which brings up the question, if we observe with much attention, do we invent what we want to see? Animals appear to know how to make decisions, it is especially evident when under duress and fear. If you have ever corralled horses, cows or pigs on a farm, certain things are imprinted in your mind, that years later become self-evident and important. Animals seem to read, the emotional imput that you put into handelling them, in there decisions. At the time this seemed irrevelent, to my understanding of what was important and what was not. The only thing that was important then, was feed the animals and get them in the corrals first. Yet 30 years later, I can remember conscious experience, that I have had, at different times, with different animals and most importantly under diverse situations. Now this is a little difficult for me to explain. When I was in a hurry and angry and when I was not and happy, an animal reacted differently, to the same stimulus. Not only that, different observed traits can be found in two different animals, given the same stimulus. Let me go farther to say, that of the 30 cows, that each day had to be put in particular stall to be milked, each one reacted individually, each one showed traits and emotions, although similar, not exactly the same. I remember expressing different emotions to try and trick the cows to get into there stalls. Sometimes a loud voice with a shout worked better on one animal, than the other, but that was not always the case. I knew and they new what each others limits were. That is a very difficult thing to understand, it can be understood only by experience. I paid no attention to it at the time, but since we humans have memory, to remember emotive moments in time, this is possible. I would have to say by first hand experience, that what I have found in animals is, that, they know when they know something, and when they don't, and they know and remember the emotional trapping tied to previous experience.

    So what I am curious to understand is this. Is emotive responces a innate feature of consciousness? Why do animals react to a loud shout and and kick in the butt, the same as a human would, with fear and not joy? Why do animals possess the same emotive responces we humans have, is it only a learned mimic reflection?
  4. Jun 1, 2004 #3
    Hello Rader,

    It's simple really, and easier to digest if you put aside the ego-centric view that humanity is an apex creation on Earth, which is very narcisstic at that. Consciousness is universal, although the self-awareness can take many forms representivite of the species.

    Everyone, including animals each have their own individual temperment aka personality. Where as a rancher you may think that animals are incoherant or nimrods. They are more or less given their anatomical restrictions the same as us. Just because we do not fully understand their domain, do we discount their potential.

    What your calling "metacognitive" sounds a whole lot like Intuition. Which, i surmise isn't an isolated trait just for humanity. Such as an uncomplicated mindset and instinctual species that animals are, perhaps Intuition comes easier to them than to ourselves.

    To take it further as an observer of animals in general. They may be able to communicate inter-species via facial body language. Much like a mother can tell when her new born child is hunger / thirsty. I also suspect that tones that are gibberish to us emitted by animals. Depending on their mood signifies a message that other animals or species can pick up on. For example a dog barking in a high pitch means stay away or alert. A kitten meowing, could be it needs something such as affection or food.

    To us this seems like nonsense since we aren't in the same loop when it comes to their form of expressions or livelihood.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2004
  5. Jun 2, 2004 #4
    "blow the balast, subs up"

    Hello Atrayo, run silent run deep, the depth charges have stopped, I thought everyone was in a submarine. Thanks for coming to the surface.

    Yes we humans are narcissistic by nature, hopefully evolving to understand the oneness of everything someday. I agree consciousness is universal but that can be interpreted two different ways, for me. This is an important point to understand what consciousness might be. The physical world creates consciousness or consciousness creates the physical world, to manifests itself. The latter is what is behind my questions, after many years of thought. To put it in the simplest of terms, consciousness may manifest itself, through all forms, depending on its phyical forms complexity. The more I learn about physics, chemistry and biology, it makes no sense to me, how complexity, can increase without some innate wisdom behind it all. It looks like it had a mighty fine designer.

    I once thought that, I most certainly do not anymore. You can observe traits in the simplest of animals which may very well be, a emotional feedout via stimulous imput through conscious behavior.

    Now intuition, or any word can be interpreted in a diverse number of ways. Might this be a innate wisdom imbeded in all of nature and at all levels?

    This is a very important point in my opinion, to understand what the nature of consciousness is. I do not believe language is unique to humans. I do not think that language is only spoken or written either. I think language can be expressed by the use of, or any combination of all the senses, we humans or any other species have in common.

    Some seem to have enough sense, to know it might not be so.
  6. Jun 4, 2004 #5
    Hello Rader,

    Thanks for that hearty greeting, you must be a submariner. :wink:

    Good point to notice that "oneness & consciousness" equate to the same dynamic, one sounds spiritual the other intellectual. Consiousness can be the ethereal property that in Christianity is given the religious name of "The Holy Spirit". The Holy Spirit i suspect is a collective of energies or souls that enbody the soul of Nature aka Oneness & Consciousness. When we consider nature, we mostly only acknowledge it's touchy / feely physical aspects. It's been delegated to religious, spiritual, or philosopical dogmas to explain the ethereal (consciousness) factors of nature.

    I also find physics to be close to delving into the theory to ethereal realities. Since they by the guidance of mathematics guesstimate these untangible dynamics, which we call reality. Para-pyschologists need a few good physicists to forming the therom of disemobided souls. (whether people or animals) It's like slipping into another "brane" (as the String theory word goes) for those who have "OBE's / Out of Body Experiences" or confrontations with huantings. (sorry got off topic)

    Intuition & Imagination are tools we all have inherantly to help us better understand consciousness or our reality around us, in it's myriad presentations. Albert Einstein himself stated that he used imagination to visualize his theroms so as to gain a foothold of their properties.

    There is also another unspoken language, and that animals may have access to coupled with body language. That is "telepathy", usually those who have been stated as telepathics are very empathy oriented. That meaning they have a strong sense of compassion so as to read their target.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2004
  7. Jun 4, 2004 #6
    "fish story"

    Well yes and I will tell a story, before all that happened, that has a lot to do with what we are discussing because I see, you are from Sarasota and just might know what I am talking about.

    In June of 1971, I alone left Chicago on my chopper, in direction Florida, camped on the beaches of all the islands all the way to Key West, in those days you could. You woke up to the sun and a sand crab poking you in the butt. I fished under the 7 mile bridge and caught all kinds of fish but there was nothing like hooking onto a barracuda. You knew when it hit the line. If you could get it into your boat, it would do a neat trick, it would walk on its tail and try to bite your leg off. This experience was left in my mind, barracudas are ferocious.
    Now a few years later returned with my brother and dived the keys north to south and in one coral reef inside the bermuda triangle, we had quite an experience. Do you know what the dance of the barracuda is? When we dove down, to our surprise, there were hundreds of barracudas in cirles of several dozen, in about 20ft diameter circles facing each other. They were all 6ft long, less 25 percent light abberation. I felt no fear only curiosity and swam into the center of the circles, my eyes through my mask were 6 inches from :biggrin: teeth that looked bigger than my fingers. There behavior towards me was totally different than being on the end of a hook. The only clue to what this was, was told to me by a Cuban diver who says this was the dance of the barracuda during mating season. I was one of a very fortunate few to experience the gentle nature of the barracuda. I was able to touch the top of there heads.

    We know, or we think we now know, for the present, or for those who do not know, physical things are force fields, 99.9 per cent of nothing. From nothing came and comes everything, there seems to be a ubiquitousness essence in all things, a wisdom that underlines and unfolds nature.

    Physcis has fallen into a black whole of metaphyscis. Which is good, we might learn something about ontology.

    Again these words Intuition & Imagination, might not be only human attributes.

    I agree.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2004
  8. Jun 8, 2004 #7
    Hello Rader,

    Nope, i didn't know about the dance of the barricuda. Although i have seen documnetries of barricuda in large schools either feeding or what not. I have had two encounters with barricuda's, both in Miami. (i lived there for 24 yrs)

    One was fishing off a private dock from a home on Miami Beach. I reeled up a barricuda, as a kid around 13 yrs old, and the lady next to me struck it down with a hammer i believe, lol. The other time i was snorkeling by the historical lighthouse at Key Biscayne, a few meters off shore. Than i encountered a 2 foot or so juvenille barricuda face to face. I was like 12 yrs or so in age, so i got spooked and swam back to shore immediately, lol. (i considered the barricuda to be like the Amazon pirranha at that time) :rofl:

    I notice now your living in Espana (Spain), that must be swell. :smile:

    That reminds me of the first line out of the Book of Genesis in the Old Testement. To paraphrase: "In the beginning there was nothing but a void, than there was light".

    That sound an aweful like the physical properties down to the level of quarks or beyond. Where that Biblical "Light", was the spark of life that has kick started everything in the physical or ethereal sense of things.

    I've like many countless others have my own inklings of possibly how creation (the universe) was created. Our physical reality or the universe in it's totality was a void, meaning the space itself didn't exist. Where perhaps a worm hole of sorts encountered the building blocks that were here by default. Than like a "glass blower" the worm hole created our universe like a bubble. Depositing that "Light" (catalystallic energy) that reacted with what was already here creating a "Big Bang" effect. Where what we are now calling "Dark Energy or Dark Mass" is the residue of the Big Bang and it's voltile matter / anti-matter that collided, leaving us with this by-product of Dark Energy / Dark Mass.

    Although layered on top of my personal inklings or assumptions is that our "Big Bang". Was our genesis from the destruction or recreation of another universe that occupied our same space. Sort of a Phoenix phenomena as to a destruction / recreation of a universe or a hemorage pulse of life.

    Ah, your quote above got me going on another off-topic tandem. :surprise:
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2004
  9. Jun 9, 2004 #8
    To hell with the universe, this was a good human conversation, there should be more of them on this forum. When you converse like this, sometimes things can happen. This conversation was worth more than 99% of the foolishness on the forum. Return to human, find human, find the truth.
  10. Jun 9, 2004 #9
    Hello again Atrayo, Is this an Indian name?

    Could you answer me a few questions:
    01- Is Ana Marie Island near Tampa Bay, all built up?
    02- Have sand dollars and sand crabs and love bugs, become extint in that area?
    03- I crossed alligator alley by myself once at night, do they still cross?

    You would do well to use a baseball bat, they are full aware of being hooked, you could loose a part of your arm.

    Yes if your interested. I became aware of what living means, many years ago. The Egypians, Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs layed the foundation of what is Almuñecar Spain today. It is the only semi-tropical area in all of Europe.

    Well if your interested in this analogy, this is for you, ISBN 0-7432-0325-9. "The hidden face of God" Gerald L. Shroeder, he is an MIT scientist.

    Is there any other place to search, besides the Plank length? No reductionistic explanation has been found in macro world, for what mind, consciousness, life might be in reality.

    I like they way "Maimonides" 1190 puts it. The only path to knowing God is through the study of science==== and for that reason, the Bible opens with a description of creation.

    We may well live in a finite universe that is part of a multiverse.

    If I could get the answers to three questions, I would ask.
    01- Why do sperical waves=force fields, produce the physcial world?
    02- What is the relationship between water and life forms, that upon its presence on the Earth, 3.8 billion years ago, the cell comes into existence in a very brief period of time.
    03- Where is the knowledge incrypted,? that picked the Cambrian Period, for all the complex stuctures, of the life forms that exist today, to manifest themselves.

    Last edited: Jun 10, 2004
  11. Jun 9, 2004 #10
    Tenyears, I am not sure us Humans, will every find the the "Ultimate Truth" but that will not stop us from trying, thats Human Nature. Sometimes between the pages of our ignorance lie a few lines of wisdom.
  12. Jun 11, 2004 #11
    Hello Rader,

    I found this recent article on http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,63792,00.html/wn_ascii [Broken] site about a collie dog breed comprehending around 200 human words. (article dates June 10th)

    As to your questions here locally in Florida:

    1) I actually haven't ventured to Anne Maria Island, which Tampa is about less than an hour away by I-75 from me. I have heard second hand accounts of alot of night clubs on the island. Besides it's strong historical ethnic Cuban ties.

    2) I have no idea, i'm not much of a beach comber, much less a eco-naturalist by hobby. :confused:

    3) Well "Alligator Alley" which is part of Interstate 75, the portion being from broward county on the east coast of the State to Naples on the west. Is now received a lot of attention in road expansions and rest stops. Some places have two lanes on each side, with miles upon miles of fence line to keep the wildlife out. I have seen as road kill alligators, also the last time (Jan. 2004) i was on Alligator alley. About the last 20 miles or so of the 75 mile run of Alligator Alley on the Naples side. I saw by my visual count (while in the car as a passenger) dozens of alligators sun bathing on a opposite bank of a canal, which is fenced away.

    Actually Atreju is one of two lead characters in a fantasy novel written by: Michael Endes, on "The Never Ending Story". They made 3 films from it, the first one is the only one worth watching in my opinion.

    Although in the Hindu faith Atrayo or a variant spelling of it appears in a few tales of the Rig-Veda. In Spanish also the word atrayo has been used i think to denote "attraction". I simply altered the spelling from "atreju to atrayo" on my own, not knowing about previous Hindu or spanish language references. Funny how creativity does things, which i've been using the "Atrayo" handle on the Net since 1999. :biggrin:

    Till next time. :smile:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  13. Jun 12, 2004 #12
    animal language

    This study of metacognition in dogs is one of many interesting studies going on. I would ask the following question.

    It seems not to be, human languages might be unique to humans but that is also now in question. The problem might be, in what language really is.
    What is language? A universally accepted definition of language or the criteria for its use, does not exist. My responce to this would be, simply that language is the way information is exchanged. For there to be an exchange of information, there must be an awarness of something. To have awareness, conscious thought must be present. Conscious thought, through the use of a language exchanges information.

    Chimpanzee Communication:Insight Into the Origin of Language
    http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/cultural/language/chimpanzee.html [Broken]

    Dolphin Communication and Intelligence Research
    http://www.ocean.fsu.edu/Courses/sp00H1001/csteinle/corinnespaper.htm [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  14. Jun 24, 2004 #13
    Might a piece of code that gets the highest attention possible be consciouss and if so, can it be found by making a code that change another code so it gets the highest attention possible untill it no longer can tell if it gets so or not?
  15. Jun 26, 2004 #14
    For a code to get attention as you say, awareness of awareness, would have to differentiate, what get the most attention. A self aware structure, would mean, it is conscious. It would seem to me, that quite the opposite is the case. Each self aware structure, seems to be more aware of itself and its source. That is my opinion based on my experience of behavior.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2004
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