To what extent are animals conscious

Animal awareness

Table of Contents

1 Introduction:

2. Theoretical foundations:
2.1 Awareness
2.2 Possible function (meaning) of consciousness
2.3 Indicator for (animal) awareness

3. Trials, observations and experiments on animal consciousness
3.1 Complex behavior = awareness?
3.2 Thinking
3.3 Self-centered behavior - experiments with mirrors

4. Synthesis & Outlook

5. Literature

1 Introduction:

Do animals have consciousness? Do people have a consciousness? According to the concept of solipsism, one can ultimately only be certain about one's own consciousness. The famous statement “Cogito, ergo sum” (I think - therefore I am) comes from R. Descartes (1596-1650). However, he did not attribute this ability to the animals. He took the view that consciousness and thinking are reserved exclusively for humans. Animals would function like automatons, whose senses and volitions run purely mechanically and according to physical principles. But the biologist Ernst Haeckel already expressed himself in his book at the end of the 19th century "The world riddles" about human and animal consciousness in a view that comes very close to today's:

“But the higher associative activity of their brains, the formation of judgments and their connection to conclusions, thinking and consciousness in the narrower sense, are similarly developed in them as in man - only different in degree, not in type. On the other hand, it is not possible to define precisely the limit at which, on the lower levels of animal life, consciousness is first recognizable as such. [] In my personal opinion, among the various contradicting theories, the most probable assumption seems to me that the creation of consciousness is linked to the centralization of the nervous system, which is still lacking in the lower classes of animals. " (Haeckel, 1899, chapter 10)

Knowledge of the characteristics and functions of animal consciousness can help clarify the development and better understanding of human consciousness. Therefore, a variety of experiments on animal consciousness are carried out. In particular, animal species with a high “cephalization index” and great apes, some of which are genetically identical to humans by up to 98.4% (Preiß, 2003)), are of great interest.

One of the biggest problems in researching animal consciousness is the lack of a language that we can understand. If this were complex enough, we could easily get information about its “mental processes”. Since this is not the case and we can only communicate with them to a very limited extent, one tries to gradually determine the extent of their cognitive abilities through the behavior of the animals in problematic situations.

2. Theoretical foundations:

Although modern imaging methods such as f-MRT, CT or PET have made it possible to determine relatively precisely those brain regions where certain cognitive processes are taking place, this does not explain consciousness. The emergence of consciousness remains one of the greatest mysteries in science.

In many simple and not very extensive dictionaries, one often only finds the term unconsciousness. This alone suggests how difficult it is to define consciousness.

2.1 Awareness

According to Zimbardo's (1995, p. 223) view, awareness is the general term for awareness. This includes the “stream of immediate experience”, which is made up of perceptions, thoughts, feelings and desires, and which fills our conscious experience. It also includes being aware of yourself as a being that exists separately from other living beings. Concentrated awareness expresses itself as attention.

"The terms" conscious "and" consciousness "denote a number of different phenomena in everyday psychology" (Metzinger, 1999, p.1) - this alone expresses how broad the definitions for consciousness are and how difficult it is to clearly understand consciousness rewrite.


End of the reading sample from 12 pages