Self-Awareness in Animals
More research has indicated that many animals may have a sense of self, far more than previously believed:
“The study answers a very old question: do animals have a sense of self?” one of the lead researchers, Thomas Hills, said in a press release. “The 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 experience.”
The study was built on work from the 1950s involving a rat maze and food, but continues it through examination of regions of the hippocampus, “which are associated with simulating potential choices, were activated at those choice points by rats as well as other vertebrates.”
They worked out that, if the rats were simulating future events but had no sense of self, it would lead to the formation of false memories, as the animals wouldn’t be able to discern between the situations they’d just imagined and reality. And if this were the case, the rats wouldn’t be able to make proper decisions about where to seek out food next – which didn’t happen in the experiments. So this led to the conclusion that the rats must be able to discern the difference between real experiences and imagined experiences. And to do this, they needed some kind of self-awareness, according to the team’s models. They call this the ability to tag the ‘primal self’.
It’s an interesting bit of science that will require a lot more research down the road, but certainly helps pave the possibility that many animals are far more intelligent than previously believed and may help motivated more omnivores away from the cruel practices associated with most of agriculture.
Article & image source: http://www.sciencealert.com/humans-aren-t-the-only-animals-that-are-self-aware-new-study-suggests