Self-Awareness – Experience Personality Or Individuality

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 two broad categories of self-awareness: internal self-awareness and external self-awareness.

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.”

BODY AWARENESS

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.

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HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

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.

NON-HUMAN ANIMALS

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.

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BODILY SELF-AWARENESS

This sense of awareness allows animals to understand that they are different from the rest of the environment; it is also the reason why animals do not eat themselves. Bodily-awareness also includes proprioception and sensation.

This type of awareness is seen in highly social animals and is the awareness that they have a role within themselves in order to survive. This type of awareness allows animals to interact with each other.

The red-spot technique created and experimented by Gordon G. Gallup studies self-awareness in animals (primates). In this technique, a red odorless spot is placed on an anesthetized primate’s forehead. The spot is placed on the forehead so that it can only be seen through a mirror.

Once the individual awakens, independent movements toward the spot after seeing their reflection in a mirror are observed. During the red-spot technique, after looking in the mirror, chimpanzees used their fingers to touch the red dot that was on their forehead and, after touching the red dot they would even smell their fingertips.

“Animals that can recognize themselves in mirrors can conceive of themselves,” says Gallup. Another prime example are elephants. Three elephants were exposed to large mirrors where experimenters studied the reaction when the elephants saw their reflection.

These elephants were given the “litmus mark test” in order to see whether they were aware of what they were looking at. This visible mark was applied on the elephants and the researchers reported a large progress with self-awareness. The elephants shared this success rate with other animals such as monkeys and dolphins.

COOPERATION AND EVOLUTIONARY PROBLEMS

An organism can be effectively altruistic without being self-aware, aware of any distinction between egoism and altruism, or aware of qualia in others. This by simple reactions to specific situations which happens to benefit other individuals in the organism’s natural environment.

If self-awareness led to a necessity of an emotional empathy mechanism for altruism and egoism being default in its absence, that would have precluded evolution from a state without self-awareness to a self-aware state in all social animals.

The ability of the theory of evolution to explain self-awareness can be rescued by abandoning the hypothesis of self-awareness being a basis for cruelty.

Self-awareness has been called “arguably the most fundamental issue in psychology, from both a developmental and an evolutionary perspective.”

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PSYCHOLOGY

Self-awareness theory, developed by Duval and Wicklund in their 1972 landmark book A theory of objective self awareness, states that when we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behavior to our internal standards and values.

This elicits a state of objective self-awareness. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves. However self-awareness is not to be confused with self-consciousness. Various emotional states are intensified by self-awareness.

However, some people may seek to increase their self-awareness through these outlets. People are more likely to align their behavior with their standards when made self-aware. People will be negatively affected if they don’t live up to their personal standards.

Various environmental cues and situations induce awareness of the self, such as mirrors, an audience, or being videotaped or recorded. These cues also increase accuracy of personal memory. In one of Andreas Demetriou’s neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development, self-awareness develops systematically from birth through the life span and it is a major factor for the development of general inferential processes.

Moreover, a series of recent studies showed that self-awareness about cognitive processes participates in general intelligence on a par with processing efficiency functions, such as working memory, processing speed, and reasoning.

Albert Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy builds on our varying degrees of self-awareness. It is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” A person’s belief in their ability to succeed sets the stage to how they think, behave and feel.

DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES

Individuals become conscious of themselves through the development of self-awareness. This particular type of self-development pertains to becoming conscious of one’s own body and mental state of mind including thoughts, actions, ideas, feelings and interactions with others.

“Self-awareness does not occur suddenly through one particular behavior: it develops gradually through a succession of different behaviors all of which relate to the self.” The monitoring of one’s mental states is called metacognition and it is considered to be an indicator that there is some concept of the self.

It is developed through an early sense of non-self components using sensory and memory sources. In developing self–awareness through self-exploration and social experiences one can broaden one’s social world and become more familiar with the self.

It is to be kept in mind that as an infant comes into this world, they have no concept of what is around them, nor for the significance of others around them. It is throughout the first year that they gradually begin to acknowledge that their body is actually separate from that of their mother, and that they are an “active, causal agent in space”.

By the end of the first year, they additionally realize that their movement, as well, is separate from movement of the mother. That is a huge advance, yet they are still quite limited and cannot yet know what they look like, “in the sense that the infant cannot recognize its own face”.

By the time an average toddler reaches 18–24 months, they will discover themselves and recognize their own reflection in the mirror, however research has found that this age varies widely with differing socioeconomic levels and differences relating to culture and parenting.

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