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Thread: At which point in life do we begin to become fully conscious?

  1. #1 At which point in life do we begin to become fully conscious? 
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    Hello people,

    This is just a little discussion topic i'm pretty curious about. Im pretty new at this so i'm not quite sure how this goes. I'm a secondary student taking biology as an elective but im not that great if you guys are willing to put up with that! ;p

    Anyways, im interested in what you guys think about this topic, when do we humans or any sentient being begin to perceive reality and understand the existence of itself. I personally think that after implantation and in the uterus, we begin to develop a sense of knowing of "being there", if you may. So if some of you are interested, I will go forth on this quest of knowledge!
    So yea, dwell on that for a bit!

    Sht1cky


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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    I do not remember much until I was about 1 year old or thereabouts and even those recollections aren't very coherent. I can't believe that in the womb we remember anything but there are some that say they do. This type of thing cannot be asked about at they early development because there's no way to communicate that I know of with a fetus. That is a two way conversation so that both understand each other.


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  4. #3  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    Memories and consciousness are different.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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  5. #4  
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    This is one tough question. So many things would need certain definitions.
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  6. #5  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    Yeah, I was tempted to suggest it was when we are able to respond to external stimuli, but then we'd have conscious plants. You could also define it as a perception of "self", but how do you test a fetus for that? One of those little mirrors the dentist uses? See if he checks his hair or tries to run away?
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    Yeah, I was tempted to suggest it was when we are able to respond to external stimuli, but then we'd have conscious plants. You could also define it as a perception of "self", but how do you test a fetus for that? One of those little mirrors the dentist uses? See if he checks his hair or tries to run away?
    Anything that has gradual incremental change that is trying to be measured against something which is purely a construct is never easy.
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  8. #7  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    Nor should it be when you consider the social and political ramifications of successfully defining such a thing.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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  9. #8  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    In my case it's usually around 10:15 AM.
    Sometimes later, depending on coffee intake.
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  10. #9  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
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    Consciousness is a word, a simplistic label we slap on a complex/graduated/nuanced reality for convenience. I often see people having a harder time analyzing an issue (ex: when does life begin, did life pop into existence?, etc) when they loose sight that the word they use to describe the reality is not the reality which can be a spectrum or multi-faceted phenomenon as opposed to a simple category that fits nicely into a small box.

    A unicellular organism can perceive aspects of its environment without being conscious from a human experience perspective.
    Various creatures perceive and react to their environment to varying degrees. In many instances the reaction more instinctive/genetic-reflex then the result of learning, and some reactions are instinctive but nonetheless require a bit of initial practice for fine tuning.

    A fetus may perceive aspects of its surroundings, but it most probably does not experience consciousness the way a 3 month old baby does or an adult does.

    IMO, a newborn baby doesn't see the way we do because it must build pattern recognition(which we take for granted but which it does not have yet), it learns to see in a sense. It can feel pain and move its arms around, but it does not know the things moving around are its own hands, and initially doesn't know hes moving them, and also doesn't know that he's the one grabbing his face/hair/ears causing himself to feel pain and cry. Many aspects we take for granted are not developed and gradually acquired by perceiving and interacting with the environment, when a toy is behind a box, we know the toy still exists and has not vanished but is behind the box, we see our reflection as ourselves and not someone else, etc, etc, so a 1 year old experience/consciousness/perception, is different from our own, and get increasingly different as you go back to increasingly earlier stages.

    If you take an adult, and go back in time to a point where its a molecular structure in the form of a cell, at what point do we or should we draw the line and say now that is consciousness? (~Ive drawn the line right there, half a second before this point hes not conscious and a fifth of a second after now hes conscious, thats the ticket).

    Its a bit arbitrary, it depends on what you mean by consciousness. Imo an adult dog (and many adult animals cat/pig/cow/etc) is more conscious (closer to the consciousness experience of an adult human) than a human fetus.
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  11. #10  
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    I see the OP as a two (possibly three) part question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sht1cky View Post
    1. At which point in life do we begin to become fully conscious?
    2. ... when do we humans or any sentient being begin to perceive reality...
    3. ... and understand the existence of itself?
    A1: Fully? Please do not laugh when I ask; is there such a thing as partially conscious? I myself am still in the learning phase.

    A2: If you want my input, I'd say when the creature's sensory organs (somesthetic, visual, olfactory, gustatory, auditory senses, etc.) and central nervous system are sufficiently developed enough to receive & process sensory input from it's environment and itself.

    A3: To "understand" means to recognize significance. I'm no expert on fetal or infant development, so I am unable to offer any comment on when it's brain is sufficiently developed and capable enough for such cognition. Perhaps someone else can advise you on that.


    * From what I've learnt and digested so far, I will add that the Self that comes with consciousness may require psychological components that I suspect are comprised of motivations and desires to facilitate and ensure it's physiological processes aren't hampered by obstacles.
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  12. #11  
    Forum Senior pineapples's Avatar
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    I recall pondering that ald self-awareness question when I was just 10. It was a hot sunny day, my dad just finished painting the hallway and I was reading my new Oink comic on the porch. Then, boom! I began wondering about my own consciousness, seeing, and feeling that constant sensation of time passing by. It was a trippy moment really. The fumes off the wet paint might of had something to do with it mind!

    There was a test carried out on young children (wish I could find the source, might have been a Horizon episode) to see if they are self-aware by placing a small mark on their face without their knowledge, and then have them play next to a mirror. I can’t remember the exact ages, but I think kids as young as 3 or 4 eventually noticed themselves in the mirror and tried to remove the mark on their face, but any kids below that age completely ignored the mirror.

    Interestingly young chimps passed the test at a younger age than human kids but I’d have to find the source to confirm that.
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  13. #12  
    Forum Masters Degree LuciDreaming's Avatar
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    During the last trimester of pregnancy the foetus can most definitely hear - this has been backed up by numerous psych studies showing how newborns specifically turn to sounds they hear in the womb (will get some refs later for you). And the human infants nervous system is soaking up information visually from the instant of birth but the response is not generally thought to be conscious. Tracking objects with eyes and gripping are all instinctual behaviours that calibrate the nervous system. Personally I think young children/infants have a type of conscious awareness in that they are aware when something emotionally enormous occurs like a huge argument and loud noises but have limited physical responses and of course no language to verbalise/understand whats actually happening. Its a really interesting question anyway but I have a conference call so cant hang around to debate more......
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by pineapples View Post
    There was a test carried out on young children (wish I could find the source, might have been a Horizon episode) to see if they are self-aware by placing a small mark on their face without their knowledge, and then have them play next to a mirror. I can’t remember the exact ages, but I think kids as young as 3 or 4 eventually noticed themselves in the mirror and tried to remove the mark on their face, but any kids below that age completely ignored the mirror.
    Ah, here it is! If interested, you can jump 6:25 min to clip for the self-aware test on children. I at least know I got the ages wrong, it's 18 months+ average when they noticed themselves.

    The “mirror self recognition” test on Horizon (3 min long).
    BBC Horizon The Secret You - YouTube
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  15. #14  
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    I personally think that after implantation and in the uterus, we begin to develop a sense of knowing of "being there", if you may.
    It'd be a bit difficult for a foetus I'd think. Remember they're not breathing themselves so their brains are not as well oxygenated as they are once they're born. I'll track it down if I can, but as I remember reading the mental state of a foetus is probably a bit above what would be a coma in us - they respond to noise and other stimuli after all - but not much more than that. It takes the full oxygenation from breathing for yourself to really get a baby's functions going.

    Come to think of it, it might well be like a coma. Sitting and reading to my husband while he was in a coma you could see him respond to different voices as we changed from me to one daughter and then the other. The biggest change though was when we put different, favourite, music into his headset - you could see his face relax even though someone in his kind of coma is not just relaxed but paralysed.

    (One minor side note that just occurred to me as I wrote that. Remember that our brains are extremely expensive organs to operate in terms of energy and oxygen. Seeing as the main function of a foetus is to develop as fast and as well as possible, making their fragile little systems dedicate 10% or more of their resources to brain function looks a bit counter-productive when they're not in a position to do much more than acclimatise to the sounds and movements around them. I'll see if that idea gets any mention anywhere.)
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sht1cky View Post
    Hello people,

    This is just a little discussion topic i'm pretty curious about. Im pretty new at this so i'm not quite sure how this goes. I'm a secondary student taking biology as an elective but im not that great if you guys are willing to put up with that! ;p

    Anyways, im interested in what you guys think about this topic, when do we humans or any sentient being begin to perceive reality and understand the existence of itself. I personally think that after implantation and in the uterus, we begin to develop a sense of knowing of "being there", if you may. So if some of you are interested, I will go forth on this quest of knowledge!
    So yea, dwell on that for a bit!

    Sht1cky
    Hello. For the reply, it's the answer on personal philosophy. This is like the question what property makes human which is choosed from any other kind of lives. A man would think the reason on religion. It's the answer for him. Another man would think, the reason of that the human have great power than any other kind of lives. It's the answer for him.
    By the situation, most important factor isn't what would be the answer. Most important, the answer and the reason. Always the answer has the reason which is choosed. I mean, people would agree the answer when the reason would be accepted to be true.

    Therefore, please make suggestion of your answer and the reason you've thought. Everybody would have the answer different each for the question. But we can think for your suggestion.
    Science gives people the hope always.
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  17. #16  
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    Then, I missed it.

    On your suggestion, you think a man has the value for feeling sense, not having any other kind of knowledge or capacity on a man. I just think it.
    Science gives people the hope always.
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  18. #17  
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    Mature consciousness would not be in place before the end of adolescence. Adolescence ends around age 25. Yeah I know that is rain on a lot of parades, sorry. Societaly and biologicly humanity gets a lot of use out of its adolescents. Gen Patton's coment on the value of an army of 18 year olds being a case in point. But mature judgement is not one of the things adolescents are good for.
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  19. #18  
    Forum Masters Degree LuciDreaming's Avatar
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    That's a rather sweeping generalisation of the adolescent mind..... and one that can be applied to adults as well as far as I can see. Mental maturity has nothing to do with age, a quick look at Youtube, Jackass etc will confirm that for you......
    "And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh" Nietzsche.
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  20. #19  
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    Wearing my curmudgeon hat today.
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  21. #20  
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    Consciousness and self awareness are different things. Self awareness is the understanding that you are a distinct individual with our own body parts and you exist separately from the rest of the world. It is a higher level of awareness than basic consciousness. Very few species have been shown to have self awareness. An even higher level of awareness is theory of mind, the ability to understand that other living things have their own ideas and thoughts that are different from your own. As far as I know, only humans have been confirmed to have theory of mind, but there is some evidence of other great apes using deception in captivity and in the wild, so I think they might have TOM also.

    Just pointing this out because it's important to define your terms correctly in a discussion.

    Sht1cky, have you done any any research on psychological development in children? Did you study Piaget?
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  22. #21  
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    Thanks for the replies everyone, i see that quite a few of you were implicating this as quite a vague and broad question. However, i do appreciate the replies and hopefully a few more contributions on this website will be made by me in the future xD
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    Hello Cosmictraveler, thanks for your reply.
    I wonder if science has ever been able to record the brain activity of a fetus when in the womb and compare it with the brain activity of a fully grown adult to see if there are significant differences regarding thought, perception etc.

    Maybe its just something science cant explain.

    Sht1cky
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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    In my case it's usually around 10:15 AM.
    Sometimes later, depending on coffee intake.
    great .....
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sht1cky View Post
    Hello Cosmictraveler, thanks for your reply.
    I wonder if science has ever been able to record the brain activity of a fetus when in the womb and compare it with the brain activity of a fully grown adult to see if there are significant differences regarding thought, perception etc.

    Maybe its just something science cant explain.

    Sht1cky
    after birth no new brain cells are made. they just start dying. foetus may have richest brain activity than any other stage of life. correct me if i am wrong
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  26. #25  
    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Precious part II View Post
    [after birth no new brain cells are made. they just start dying. foetus may have richest brain activity than any other stage of life. correct me if i am wrong
    That is an old myth. Apparently, that's not true. Here is a recent story about the regeneration of neurons: Nuclear bomb tests reveal brain regeneration in humans - health - 07 June 2013 - New Scientist
    Last edited by Strange; June 10th, 2013 at 10:38 AM. Reason: "myth" may be an exaggereation.
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