Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals. It is not to be confused with consciousness. While consciousness is being aware of one’s environment and body, self-awareness is the recognition of that consciousness. When an individual can identify, process, store information about the self, and has knowledge of one’s own mental states they are defined to have self-awareness. Knowing that an individual stays the same individual across time and is separate from the others’ and the environment is also a factor of having self-awareness. Gordon Gallup, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York in Albany says that “self-awareness provides the ability to contemplate the past, to project into the future, and to speculate on what others are thinking”. Researchers have demonstrated that the awareness of ourselves begins to emerge at around one year of age and becomes much more developed by around 18 months of age.
- 1 In philosophy
- 2 Neurobiological basis
- 3 In psychology
- 4 Disorders Affecting Self Awareness
- 5 In theater
- 6 In science fiction
- 7 See also
- 8 Footnotes
An early philosophical discussion of self-awareness is that of John Locke. Locke was apparently influenced by René Descartes' statement normally translated 'I think, therefore I am' (Cogito ergo sum). In chapter XXVII "On Identity and Diversity" of Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) he conceptualized consciousness as the repeated self-identification of oneself through which moral responsibility could be attributed to the subject—and therefore punishment and guiltiness justified, as critics such as Nietzsche would point out, affirming "...the psychology of conscience is not 'the voice of God in man'; it is the instinct of cruelty ... expressed, for the first time, as one of the oldest and most indispensable elements in the foundation of culture." John Locke does not use the terms self-awareness or self-consciousness though.
According to Locke, personal identity (the self) "depends on consciousness, not on substance. We are the same person to the extent that we are conscious of our past and future thoughts and actions in the same way as we are conscious of our present thoughts and actions. If consciousness is this "thought" which doubles all thoughts, then personal identity is only founded on the repeated act of consciousness: "This may show us wherein personal identity consists: not in the identity of substance, but ... in the identity of consciousness." For example, one may claim to be a reincarnation of Plato, therefore having the same soul. However, one would be the same person as Plato only if one had the same consciousness of Plato's thoughts and actions that he himself did. Therefore, self-identity is not based on the soul. One soul may have various personalities.
Locke argues that self-identity is not founded either on the body or the substance, as the substance may change while the person remains the same. "Animal identity is preserved in identity of life, and not of substance", as the body of the animal grows and changes during its life. describes a case of a prince and a cobbler in which the soul of the prince is transferred to the body of the cobbler and vice versa. The prince still views himself as a prince, though he no longer looks like one. This border-case leads to the problematic thought that since personal identity is based on consciousness, and that only oneself can be aware of his consciousness, exterior human judges may never know if they really are judging—and punishing—the same person, or simply the same body. Locke argues that you may be judged for the actions of your body rather than your soul, and only God knows how to correctly judge a man’s actions. Men also are only responsible for the acts of which they are conscious. This forms the basis of the insanity defense which argues that one cannot be held accountable for acts in which they were unconsciously irrational, or mentally ill— In reference to man’s personality, Locke claims that “whatever past actions it cannot reconcile or appropriate to that present self by consciousness, it can be no more concerned in it than if they had never been done: and to receive pleasure or pain, i.e. reward or punishment, on the account of any such action, is all one as to be made happy or miserable in its first being, without any demerit at all.
There are new 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". Neuroscientists have believed that the insular cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the medial prefrontal cortex are three brain regions that are critical for self-awareness. However, a research team led by the University of Iowa have recently had the opportunity to study a 57-year old patient “R” who had suffered extensive brain damage from the three parts of the brain believed to be responsible for self-awareness. About 10 percent of his insula remains and only 1 percent of his anterior cingulate cortex. The patient passed all standard tests of self-awareness including the mirror test and recognizing himself in photographs. The evidence of Patient R’s solid self-awareness leads to the idea that self-awareness is more a product of a diffuse patchwork of pathways in the brain rather than confined to specific areas. The authors believe the brainstem, thalamus, and posteromedial cortices play roles in self-awareness, as has been theorized. Regardless of the theories, it is clear that the concept of self-awareness is still something to be more unknown than originally thought.
There is an ongoing debate as to whether animals have consciousness or not; but in this article the question is whether animals have self-awareness. Like humans’ minds and brains, animals’ minds and brains are concealed and subjective. Animals use their own language to express concepts, remember who is friend and foe, pass on cultural information through generations, and mourn their dead. Yet there are still skeptics who believe that animals do not possess the ability to be self-aware. Studies have been done mainly on primates to test if self-awareness is present. Apes, chimpanzees, monkeys, elephants, and dolphins are studied most frequently. The most relevant studies to this day that represent self-awareness in animals have been done on chimpanzees, dolphins, and magpies. Self-awareness in animals is tested through mirror self recognition. Animals who show mirror self recognition go through four stages 1) social response, 2) physical mirror inspection, 3) repetitive mirror testing behavior, and 4) the mark test; which involves the animals spontaneously touching a mark on their body which would've been difficult to see without the mirror.
The ‘Red Spot Technique’ created and experimented by Gordon 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 even after touching the red dot they would 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 they saw their reflection. This would mean that the chimpanzees would possess self-awareness. 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(Plotnik et al., 2006). “Whereas members of all great ape species have shown evidence of mirror self recognition, monkeys do not. In the only existing explanation of why self -awareness evolved in the hominoid line, Povinelli and Cant (1995) argued that the particular ecological challenge of being a large bodied primate in arboreal environment resulted in an adaptation whereby the arboreal common ancestor of modern day apes was able to construct an integrated representation of its body in relation to the environment”(Moore, Mealiea Garon, Povinelli 160). Chimpanzees and apes – both species 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. In her experiment, Reiss and her colleagues drew with temporary black ink on some of the dolphins in the aquarium on parts of their bodies that they could only see in a mirror, also a gigantic mirror was placed inside the dolphins’ tank. The dolphins who did not get drawn on ignored the mirror, but the dolphins who did get drawn on “made a bee-line to see where they’d been marked” according to Reiss. After the experiment the dolphins that have been drawn on once returned to the mirror to inspect themselves; even when they were ‘drawn’ on again but with clear water. The dolphins recognized the feeling and remembered the action from when they were drawn on which relates to a factor of self-awareness.
Researchers 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 and Colleagues marked the birds’ neck with three different colors: red, yellow and a black 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, posed, did some wing-flapping, all in front of the mirror with the objects in his beak. This represents a sense of self-awareness; knowing what is going on within himself and in the present. In all of the trials with the mirror and the marks, never did the birds peck at the reflection of the mark in the actual mirror. All of the behaviors were towards their own body but only heightened when there was a mirror present and the mark was of color. Behavior towards their own bodies concluded in the trials when the bird removed the mark. Gerti and Goldie, two of the magpies being studied, removed their marks after a few minutes in their trials with a colored mark and a mirror. After the mark was removed, there were no more behaviors toward their own bodies. The authors suggest that self-recognition in birds and mammals may be a case of convergent evolution, where similar evolutionary pressures result in similar behaviors or traits, although they arrive at them via different routes.
A few slight occurrences of behavior towards the magpies own body happened in the trial with the black mark and the mirror. It is an assumption in this study that the black mark may have been slightly visible on the black feathers. Prior and Colleagues, stated “This is an indirect support for the interpretation that the behavior towards the mark region was elicited by seeing the own body in the mirror in conjunction with an unusual spot on the body.”
The behaviors of the magpies clearly contrasted with no mirror present. In the no-mirror trials, a non-reflective gray plate of the same size and in the same position as the mirror was swapped in. There were not any mark directed self-behaviors when the mark was present, in color, or in black. Prior and Colleagues, data quantitatively matches the findings in chimpanzees. In summary of The Mark Test, the results show that magpies understand that a mirror image represents their own body; magpies show to have self-awareness.
In conclusion, the fact that primates and magpies spot the markings on them and examine themselves better means, according to theory, that they are seeing themselves which means they are self-aware. According to the definition stated earlier in this section, if an individual can process, identify, store information (memory), and recognize differences, they are self-aware. The chimpanzees, dolphins, and magpies have all demonstrated these factors in the mentioned experiments.
Self-awareness has been called "arguably the most fundamental issue in psychology, from both a developmental and an evolutionary perspective."
In psychology, the concept of "self-awareness" is used in different ways as following:
- As a form of intelligence, self-awareness can be an understanding of one's own knowledge, attitudes, and opinions. Alfred Binet's first attempts to create an intelligence test including items for "auto-critique" – a critical understanding of oneself. Surprisingly we do not have a privileged access to our own opinions and knowledge directly. For instance, if we try to enumerate all the members of any conceptual category we know, our production falls much short of our recognition of members of that category.
- Albert Bandura has created a category called self-efficacy that builds on our varying degrees of self-awareness.
- Our general inaccuracy about our own abilities, knowledge, and opinions has created many popular phenomena for research such as the better than average effect. For instance, 90% of drivers may believe that they are "better than average" (Swenson, 1981). Their inaccuracy comes from the absence of a clear definable measure of driving ability and their own limited self-awareness; and this of course underlines the importance of objective standards to inform our subjective self-awareness in all domains. Inaccuracy in our opinion seems particularly disturbing, for opinions are a highly personal matter. Yet, inconsistency in our opinion is as strong as in our knowledge of facts. For instance, people who call themselves opposite extremes in political views often hold not just overlapping political views, but views that are an essential component of the opposite extreme. Reconciling such differences proves difficult and gave rise to Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance.
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 their social world and become more familiar with the self.
According to Emory University’s Phileppe Rochat, there are five levels of self-awareness which unfold in early development and six potential prospects ranging from "Level 0" (having no self-awareness) advancing complexity to "Level 5" (explicit self-awareness).
- Level 0: Confusion. At this level the individual has a degree of zero self-awareness. This person is unaware of any mirror reflection or the mirror itself. They perceive the mirror as an extension of their environment. Level 0 can also be displayed when an adult frightens themselves in a mirror mistaking their own reflection as another person just for a second.
- Level 1: Differentiation. The individual realizes the mirror is able to reflect things. They see that what is in the mirror is different from what is surrounding them. At this level one can differentiate between their own movement in the mirror and the movement of the surrounding environment.
- Level 2: Situation. At this point an individual can link the movements on the mirror to what is perceived within their own body. This is the first hint of self-exploration on a projected surface where what is visualized on the mirror is special to the self.
- Level 3: Identification. The individual finds out that recognition takes effect. One can now see that what’s in the mirror is not another person but it is actually themselves. It is seen when a child refers to them self while looking in the mirror instead of referring to the mirror while referring to themselves. They have now identified self
- Level 4: Permanence. Once an individual reaches this level they can identify the self beyond the present mirror imagery. They are able to identify the self in previous pictures looking different or younger. A "permanent self" is now experienced.
- Level 5: Self-consciousness or "meta" self-awareness. At this level not only is the self seen from a first person view but its realized that it’s also seen from a third person’s view. They begin to understand they can be in the mind of others. For instance, how they are seen from a public standpoint.
Related to research stated above, by the time an average toddler reaches 18 months they will discover themselves and recognize their own reflection in the mirror. By the age of 24 months the toddler will observe and relate their own actions to those actions of other people and the surrounding environment. There are multiple experiments that show a child’s self-awareness. In what has come to be known as “The Shopping Cart Task,” “Children were asked to push a shopping the cart to their mothers but in attempting to do so they had to step on the mat and in consequence, their body weight prevented the cart from moving” (Moore, Mealiea, Garon, Povinelli, 157). This experiment shows that at a younger age, infants are less self-aware. There were “eighteen 15 month olds (8 girls and 10 boys) and twenty- one 21 month- olds (12 girls and 9 boys)” (Moore Mealiea Garon Povinelli 162). The results showed that the older group of children, who were 21 months-olds, were much more successful than the younger group, who were 16 months-olds (Moore Mealiea, Garon, Povinelli 164, 166). Moreover, the experiment was structured to see whether there was a difference between sexes. The results were “the only significant sex affect was that boys (M=.55) had overall more successes than girls (Moore, Mealiea, Garon, Povinelli, 164). This may have been due to the greater strength of males than females at this age. (Moore, Mealiea, Garon, Povinelli, 164). The Shopping Cart Task, therefore shows that older children have more self awareness than younger children. As infants grow to familiarize themselves with their surround environment and a child will provide a self-description in terms of action and later in terms of qualities and traits of their environment.
Around school age a child’s awareness of personal memory transitions into a sense of one's own self. At this stage, a child begins to develop interests along with likes and dislikes. This transition enables the awareness of an individual’s past, present, and future to grow as conscious experiences are remembered more often.
As a child’s self-awareness increases they tend to separate and become their own person. Their cognitive and social development allows “the taking of another's perspective and the accepting of inconsistencies.” By adolescence, a coherent and integrated self-perception normally emerges. This very personal emerging perspective continues to direct and advance an individual’s self-awareness throughout their adult life.
“A further and deeper development in self-awareness allows a person to become increasingly wise and coherent in the understanding of self.” The increase in awareness can ultimately lead to high levels of consciousness. This has been supported through research on enhanced self-actualization, increased attention in association with expanding ones self-concept, and a higher level of internal control and maintenance of self during stressful conditions.
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. 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 Demetriou's theory, one of the 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.
Self-awareness in adolescence is when they are becoming conscious of their emotions. Most children are aware of emotions such as shame, guilt, pride and embarrassment (Zeanah,84). by the age to two, but they do not fully understand how those emotions affect their life. By time they become thirteen they are really starting to understand how those emotions have an impact on their lives. Although they are going through puberty they really get to understand and really get in touch with their emotions. The emotions that flow through them at the time they make decisions are not always good and that is part of what makes adults believe they are confused, but they really are not. Harter did a study of adolescents and in the study it found that adolescents (teenagers) are happy and like themselves when around their friends. But when around their parents they feel sad, mad and depressed and when it comes to pleasing them they feel hopeless because what they get from their parents is they can do nothing right. However it was also shown that when at school and around their teachers they felt intelligent and creative. But when around people they do not know they are shy, uncomfortable and nervous (60). The study brings to light quantization of the many different aspects involved with coming of age. The material relays some of the social interactions which may evoke the judgments cast on adolescents by their (elder) peers, but in reality the cognitive advancement of adolescents is not so uniform that these judgments may hold any credibility upon further scrutiny within academic literature. These findings reveal “teen angst” is an oft used generality describing an adolescent’s emotional growth in terms of the anxiety it creates for the observer. This synopsis stands to disregard the intellectual maturity of the observed and fosters misunderstanding in regards to what the observed acknowledges about their cognitive semblance and how that perception influences their actions globally. The way they respond during the situation is just how they truly felt at that time during that situation. What needs to be realized is that they are in the process of learning to get their emotions together in under control. As adults you have already learned this therefore they should be a little more understanding to what the adolescents are going through. Although they are adolescents they know what they are doing and that’s why they follow two roles. One role is responsible and the other role is the irresponsible and it depends on who they are with to determine which role they are going to be in. When they are around teachers, parents and sometime people they do not know they play the responsible role but when around the oppose sex, friends and enemies they play the irresponsible roles (Harter,89). The responsible role is when they are dependable and you know they will make good decisions on their own. When they act in a reliable way and do things to make you proud of them. The irresponsible role is the opposite of responsible, when they are not trustworthy, they do everything you tell them not to do and should not be on their own because they may do something to get into trouble.
Disorders Affecting Self Awareness
The medical term for not seeing what ails you is anosognosia, or more commonly known as a lack of insight. Having a lack of awareness raises the risks of treatment and service nonadherence. Individuals who deny having an illness may be against seeking professional help because they are convinced that nothing is wrong with them. Disorders of self-awareness frequently follow frontal lobe damage. There are two common methods used to measure how severe an individual’s lack of self-awareness is. The Patient Competency Rating Scale (PCRS) evaluates self-awareness in patients who have endured a traumatic brain injury. PCRS is a 30-item self-report instrument which asks the subject to use a 5-point Likert scale to rate his or her degree of difficulty in a variety of tasks and functions. Independently, relatives or significant others who know the patient well are also asked to rate the patient on each of the same behavioral items. The difference between the relatives’ and patient’s perceptions is considered an indirect measure of impaired self-awareness. The limitations of this experiment rest on the answers of the relatives. Results of their answers can lead to a bias. This limitation prompted a second method of testing a patient’s self-awareness. Simply asking a patient why they are in the hospital or what is wrong with their body can give compelling answers as to what they see and are analyzing.
Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociative identity disorder or multiple personality disorder is a disorder involving a disturbance of identity in which two or more separate and distinct personality states (or identities) control an individual's behavior at different times. One identity may be different from another, and when an individual with DID is under the influence of one of their identities, they may forget their experiences when they switch to the other identity. “When under the control of one identity, a person is usually unable to remember some of the events that occurred while other personalities were in control.” They may experience time loss, amnesia, and adopt different mannerisms, attitudes, speech and ideas under different personalities. They are often unaware of the different lives they lead or their condition in general.
Autism spectrum disorder
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of neurodevelopmental disabilities that can cause social communication, and behavioral challenges (Understanding Autism, 2003) ”Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. –“. ASDs can also cause imaginative abnormalities and can range from mild to severe, especially in sensory-motor, perceptual and affective dimensions. Children with ASD may struggle with self-awareness and self acceptance. Their different thinking patterns and brain processing functions in the area of social thinking and actions may compromise their ability to understand themselves and social connections to others About 75% diagnosed autistics are mentally handicapped in some general way and the other 25% diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome show average to good cognitive functioning. When we compare our own behavior to the morals and values that we were taught, we can focus more attention on ourselves which increasing self-awareness. to understand the many effects of autism spectrum disorders on those afflicted have led many scientists to theorize what level of self-awareness occurs and in what degree.research found, ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention. It can be affected physical health issues as well such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. as a result of all those problems, individuals will literally unaware of themselves. It is well known that children suffering from varying degrees of Autism struggle in social situations. Scientists at the University of Cambridge have produced evidence that self-awareness is a main problem for people with ASD. Researchers used functional magnetic resonance scans (FMRI) to measure brain activity in 66 male volunteers in which half have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The volunteers were monitored while being asked to make judgments about their own thoughts, opinions, preferences, as well as about someone else's. By scanning the volunteers' brains as they responded to these questions, the researchers were able to see differences in the brain activity between those with and without autism. One area of the brain closely examined was the ventromedial pre-frontal cortex (vMPFC) which is known to be active when people think about themselves. The study showed that those affected by ASD did not have much of a separation of the brain activity when speaking about themselves as opposed to someone else like their unaffected counterparts did. This research suggests that the autistic brain struggled to process information about themselves. Self-awareness requires one to be able to keep track of the relationship they have with themselves and understand what makes them similar to or different from others or in what ways different from others. "This research has shown that children with autism may also have difficulty understanding their own thoughts and feelings and the brain mechanisms underlying this, thus leading to deficits in self-awareness".
A study out of Stanford University has tried to map out brain circuits with understanding self-awareness in Autism Spectrum Disorders. This study suggests that self-awareness is primarily lacking in social situations but when in private they are more self-aware and present. It is in the company of others while engaging in interpersonal interaction that the self-awareness mechanism seems to fail. Higher functioning individuals on the ASD scale have reported that they are more self-aware when alone unless they are in sensory overload or immediately following social exposure. Self-awareness dissipates when an autistic is faced with a demanding social situation. This theory suggests that this happens due to the behavioral inhibitory system which is responsible for self-preservation. This is the system that prevents human from self-harm like jumping out of a speeding bus or putting our hand on a hot stove. Once a dangerous situation is perceived then the behavioral inhibitory system kicks in and restrains our activities. "For individuals with ASD, this inhibitory mechanism is so powerful, it operates on the least possible trigger and shows an over sensitivity to impending danger and possible threats. Some of these dangers may be perceived as being in the presence of strangers, or a loud noise from a radio. In these situations self-awareness can be compromised due to the desire of self preservation, which trumps social composure and proper interaction.
The Hobson hypothesis reports that autism begins in infancy due to the lack of cognitive and linguistic engagement which in turn results in impaired reflective self-awareness. In this study ten children with Asperger's Syndrome were examined using the Self-understanding Interview. This interview was created by Damon and Hart and focuses on seven core areas or schemas that measure the capacity to think in increasingly difficult levels. This interview will estimate the level of self understanding present. "The study showed that the Asperger group demonstrated impairment in the 'self-as-object' and 'self-as-subject domains of the Self-understanding Interview, which supported Hobson's concept of an impaired capacity for self-awareness and self-reflection in people with ASD.". Self-understanding is a self description in an individual’s past, present and future. Without self-understanding it is reported that self-awareness is lacking in people with ASD.
Joint attention (JA) was developed as a teaching strategy to help increase positive self-awareness in those with Autism Spectrum Disorders. JA strategies were first used to directly teach about reflected mirror images and how they relate to their reflected image. Mirror Self Awareness Development (MSAD) activities were used as a four step framework to measure increases in self-awareness in those with ASD. Self-awareness and knowledge is not something that can simply be taught through direct instruction. Instead, students acquire this knowledge by interacting with their environment. Mirror understanding and its relation to the development of self leads to measurable increases in self-awareness in those with ASD. It also proves to be a highly engaging and highly preferred tool in understanding the developmental stages of self- awareness.
There have been many different theories and studies done on what degree of self-awareness is displayed among people suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorders. Scientists have done research about the various parts of the brain associated with understanding self and self-awareness. Studies have shown evidence of areas of the brain that are impacted by ASD. Other theories suggest that helping an individual learn more about themselves through Joint Activities, such as the Mirror Self Awareness Development may help teach positive self-awareness and growth. In helping to build self-awareness it is also possible to build self-esteem and self acceptance. This in turn can help to allow the individual with ASD to relate better to their environment and have better social interactions with others.
Schizophrenia is a chronic psychiatric illness characterized by excessive dopamine activity in the mesolimbic tract and insufficient dopamine activity in the mesocortical tract leading to symptoms of psychosis along with poor cognition in socialization. Under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, people with schizophrenia have a combination of positive, negative and psychomotor symptoms. These cognitive disturbances involve rare beliefs and/or thoughts of a distorted reality that creates an abnormal pattern of functioning for the patient. Multiple studies have investigated this issue. Although it has been studied and proven that schizophrenia is hereditary, most patients that inherit this gene are not aware of their disorder, regardless of their family history. The level of self-awareness among patients with schizophrenia is a heavily studied topic.
Schizophrenia as a disease state is characterized by severe cognitive dysfunction and it is uncertain to what extent patients are aware of this deficiency. In a study published in Schizophrenia Research by Medalia and Lim (2004), researchers investigated patients’ awareness of their cognitive deficit in the areas of attention, nonverbal memory, and verbal memory. Results from this study (N=185) revealed large discrepancy in patients’ assessment of their cognitive functioning relative to the assessment of their clinicians. Though it is impossible to access ones’ consciousness and truly understand what a schizophrenic believes, regardless in this study, patients were not aware of their cognitive dysfunctional reasoning. In the DSM-5, to properly diagnose a schizophrenic, they must have two or more of the following symptoms in the duration of one month: delusions*, hallucinations*, disorganized speech*, grossly disorganized/catatonic behavior and negative symptoms (*these three symptoms above all other symptoms must be present to correctly diagnose a patient.) Sometimes these symptoms are very prominent and are treated with a combination of antipsychotics (i.e. haloperidol, loxapine), atypical antipsychotics (such as clozapine and risperdone) and psychosocial therapies that include family interventions and socials skills. When a patient is undergoing treatment and recovering from the disorder, the memory of their behavior is present in a diminutive amount; thus, self-awareness of diagnoses of schizophrenia after treatment is rare, as well as subsequent to onset and prevalence in the patient.
The above findings are further supported by a study conducted in The American Journal of Psychiatry in 1993 by Amador, et al. (N=43). The study suggests a correlation exists between patient insight, compliance and disease progression. Investigators assess insight of illness was assessed via Scale to Assess Unawareness of Mental Disorder and was used along with rating of psychopathology, course of illness, and compliance with treatments in a sample of 43 patients. Patients with poor insight are less likely to be compliant with treatment and are more likely to have a poorer prognosis. Patients with hallucinations sometimes experience positive symptoms, which can include delusions of reference, thought insertion/withdrawal, thought broadcast, delusions of persecution, grandiosity and many more. These psychoses skew the patient’s perspectives of reality in ways in which they truly believe are really happening. For instance, a patient that is experiencing delusions of reference may believe while watching the weather forecast that when the weatherman says it will rain, he is really sending a message to the patient in which rain symbolizes a specific warning completely irrelevant to what the weather is. Another example would be thought broadcast, which is when a patient believes that everyone can hear their thoughts. These positive symptoms sometimes are so severe to where the schizophrenic believes that something is crawling on them or smelling something that is not there in reality. These strong hallucinations are intense and difficult to convince the patient that they do not exist outside of their cognitive beliefs, making it extremely difficult for a patient to understand and become self-aware that what they are experiencing is in fact not there.
Furthermore, a study by Bedford and Davis(2013) was conducted to look at the association of denial vs. acceptance of multiple facets of schizophrenia (self reflection, self perception and insight) and its effect on self-reflection (N=26). Study results suggest patients with increased disease denial have lower recollection for self evaluated mental illnesses. To a great extent, disease denial creates a hardship for patients to undergo recovery because their feelings and sensations are intensely outstanding. But just as this and the above studies imply, a large proportion of schizophrenics do not have self-awareness of their illness for many factors and severity of reasoning of their diagnoses.
Bipolar Disorder is an illness that causes shifts in mood, energy, and ability to function. Self-awareness is crucial in those suffering from this disease, as they must be able to distinguish between feeling a certain way because of the disorder or because of separate issues. “Personality, behavior, and dysfunction affect your bipolar disorder, so you must “know” yourself in order to make the distinction.”.
Theater also concerns itself with other awareness besides self-awareness. There is a possible correlation between the experience of the theater audience and individual self-awareness. As actors and audiences must not "break" the fourth wall in order to maintain context, so individuals must not be aware of the artificial, or the constructed perception of his or her reality. This suggests that both self-awareness and the social constructs applied to others are artificial continuums just as theater is. Theatrical efforts such as Six Characters in Search of an Author, or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, construct yet another layer of the fourth wall, but they do not destroy the primary illusion. Refer to Erving Goffman's Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience.
In science fiction
In science fiction, self-awareness describes an essential human property that often (depending on the circumstances of the story) bestows "personhood" onto a non-human. If a computer, alien or other object is described as "self-aware", the reader may assume that it will be treated as a completely human character, with similar rights, capabilities and desires to a normal human being. The words "sentience", "sapience" and "consciousness" are used in similar ways in science fiction.
- Animal awareness
- Bicameralism (psychology)
- Boltzmann brain
- Cartesian theater
- Childhood amnesia
- Dunning–Kruger effect
- Feldenkrais Method
- Higher consciousness
- Human self-reflection
- Insight in psychology and psychiatry
- Lucid dreaming
- Memory suppression
- Mirror test
- Outline of self
- Psychological mindedness
- Yoga Nidra
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