Talk:Animal consciousness

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Half hour audio on this topic[edit]

This is a pleasant half hour discussion on the question of animal consciousness/attention/mind, from Radio National's The Philosopher's Zone, between Alan Saunders and Peter Godfrey-Smith. Not sure if it should be an external link on the article. --Anthonyhcole (talk) 05:14, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness[edit]

The article needs to have included The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, published recently, which recognizes the existence of consciousness on at least some nonhuman animal classes (mammals, birds and cephalopoda). I haven't included it myself because other people, especially those who are specialized in Biology and Zoology, may write about it with more biological propriety. Robfbms (talk) 11:05, 18 July 2012 (UTC)

Good call -- soon after it occurred, as well. Don't be afraid to edit, dude. Glad you mentioned it here, but it really is no more complex a matter to start a new section for a thing like that right out there on the page itself. A little "who/what/when/where/how", maybe a quote or two to round that out, and a verifiable source from which you're getting your information and you're all good to go.  :^) :^)
I personally suspect that in time the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness will come to have a separate entry of its own as its implications are likely to become rather broad and far-reaching. But for now it's just a very statement of consensus, and Wikipedia's not a crystal ball. Aside from going in and cleaning up redundant citations in the Cambridge § I'm still mulling over how to make best use of it on here.
At writing, two separate footnotes reference the same PDF and a third references the conference website. I understand concerns about wanting to reference each potentially controversial statement, too, but also frankly rather doubt it's really necessary to footnote each single bulleted paragraph which are quoted in succession. I think the principle is simply that statements likely to be challenged do need to be cited, for something like this I'm tempted to say "once is enough".
I personally rather like the wikilinks within the quote but can't remember off the top of my head what the manual of style says about wikilinking within quotes. I think the principle on that is "maintain structural integrity" but can't recall for sure exactly how that likely plays out here, and what all the reasoning is behind it. Hm.
Another set of questions in my mind to which I don't really have a good, solid answer yet: how much quote is enough quote, and how much quote is simply too much? At what point does the quoted text become sufficiently substantial a portion of the document that you just go right on and quote the whole darn thing?
I like the sidebox with the document's conclusion, but do think it's a mistake to have that side-by-side with a prior quote four or five times its length because it violates the overall document's structure while simultaneously quoting most of it. I guess I hope to maybe getting around to incorporating some of the information in the bulleted paragraphs elsewhere throughout this article -- mining the source -- seeing where it *really* fits in smalller bits and pieces, then maybe putting in some secondary and tertiary sourced information on the story behind the document itself in the so-named §.
Sorry if I'm rambling or just thinking through my fingertips here but I'm too tired to really work on it right now and figured it couldn't hurt to see what other folks involved on this page might have to say about any of this.
Cheers, ༺།།ༀ་ཨཱཿ་ཧཱུྃ།།འཚེར།།xeltifon།།སར་ཝ་མང་ག་ལམ།།༻  {say it}  {contribs} 11:25, 10 January 2013 (UTC)
Yes, you're rambling :) --Epipelagic (talk) 11:39, 22 February 2013 (UTC)
lol - i do that. the fact that i'm not re-reading what i wrote is all the proof i need. i swear - i can have an edit war against myself over such momentous issues as commas versus semicolons.  :^) :^)
while you've got my attention, though, let me park some related external links here which folks may find of interest from
  1. Discovery News,
  2. Scientific American, and
  3. Psychology Today.
My personal interest in this article is sort of marginal right now for which reason I haven't evaluated those links' potential value as sources, but I do figure they might be of interest to someone working a bit more closely here than I am.
Cheers, ༺།།ༀ་ཨཱཿ་ཧཱུྃ།།འཚེར།།xeltifon།།སར་ཝ་མང་ག་ལམ།།༻  {say it} { ζ(3) } {did it} 18:45, 22 February 2013 (UTC)

General comment on style[edit]

While it may be appropriate in an academic paper, in Wikipedia I am not keen on style like "In 1927, Carr argued that..." or "According to Burghardt, 1985, ...", presented as if we are supposed to already know who these people are. This is especially true when it is so prominent in the lead section. The general reader would most likely ask "Who is 'Carr', and why is it important what he or she thinks?". (talk) 00:17, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

Hi! I fully agree with you. Please, be bold and start editing the lead! Lova Falk talk 15:05, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
I partially agree with these views, and I edited the lead to address that. However, this topic has a long history with conflicted views from different schools and different eras, and the lead is attempting to catch something of the flavour of that. Since the topic is far from settled with historic inputs from many disciplines, it is difficult to give a coherent account that avoids referring to specific times and persons. --Epipelagic (talk) 07:04, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

Private video[edit]

On the side of the section "Mirror test" is a link to a YouTube video with the title "Amazing Apes: Self-awareness (1 of 10)". The video is marked private and cannot be watched. The URL is (talk) 14:46, 17 March 2014 (UTC)

Gorillas and the mirror test[edit]

I seem to remember reading somewhere that only the Western gorillas have tested positive in the mirror test. Have Eastern gorillas been tested? Maybe the dichotomy is between mountain and lowland gorillas? Would be interesting to research which species/sub-species have been tested.__DrChrissy (talk) 09:13, 19 April 2014 (UTC)

Cognitive bias[edit]

It seems to me that cognitive bias tests are an investigation of emotion and therefore consciouness. Should I include a section in this article?__DrChrissy (talk) 15:27, 28 January 2015 (UTC)

Perhaps a section called "Cognitive bias and emotion" after the section on "Pain and suffering", since similar issues arise relating consciousness to suffering (which is an emotion). Might not Cognitive bias in animals have its own article? --Epipelagic (talk) 22:37, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for the positive feedback on this.__DrChrissy (talk) 15:28, 29 January 2015 (UTC)

Unhelpful corrections[edit]

@Bfpage: You replaced the sentence

Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is" 


Despite the difficulty in definition, philosophers believe there is a shared intuition underlying the understanding of consciousness.

I restored the original version because it was more nuanced and more faithful to the cited source. You also commented in your edit summary that you corrected grammar; can't end a sentence with the word 'is'. I don't recall encountering that rule before. Does it apply to all verbs, or just to the verb "to be"? Did Shakespeare make a gramatical error when he wrote "to be or not to be"?

There is also a problem with this edit. You added unnecessary spaces in the headings and unnecessary spacing lines after the headings, and commented in your edit summary that you corrected layout and spacing. Actually you corrected nothing, merely added redundant spaces and blank lines. The spaces and blank lines you added are just passed over and ignored when the source text is processed prior to display. The processor has extra (wasteful) code which allows you to do this because that's what some editors want. That is all. Personally I prefer those unnecessary additions were not there. They just make the source code more difficult to read. When I originally wrote the article I naturally did not include them. On the other hand, you have written articles yourself, and presumably you include these embellishments. That's fine if that's what you want, and I wouldn't dream of going to the articles you wrote and start removing them. And if I did, I certainly wouldn't rub salt into the injury with a misleading edit summary saying corrected layout and spacing. Nor am I going to revert the edit you made here; it's just not that important. I'm just noting that it is mildly annoying, and you seem to be imposing this personal preference of yours on editors elsewhere. --Epipelagic (talk) 01:41, 22 March 2015 (UTC)

Second para of lead[edit]

I am a little concerned that the opening paragraphs do not accurately reflect the abilit of animals to communicate to us about thier experiences. In the second para, it is stated "It poses the problem of other minds in an especially severe form because animals, lacking the ability to express human language, cannot tell us about their experiences". This is an accurate reflection of the reference given, however, I feel there are other aspects of animal cognition which sould be included for balance. We already discuss cognitive bias in the body - perhaps this should be mentioned in the lead? There are plenty of examples of categorisation, discrimination and individual recognition which "tell us about their previous experience" - perhaps these should be mentioned in the lead?DrChrissy (talk) 10:15, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

The issue is not so much about how animals behave. It is more about whether certain behaviours can be said to reliably indicate consciousness. There are core philosophical and methodological issues with the very notion of conscious itself (and therefore with animal conscious). These issues cannot be said to be generally resolved, and that needs to be keep central in the article. Sure animals can exhibit many intelligent behaviours that we might associate with the behaviour of conscious beings. But it does not follow from that that the animal must necessarily be conscious. A skilfully programmed robotic "animal" could in principal exhibit the sort of behaviours you mention, yet we would probably not want to attribute consciousness to a robot. The problem exists, in force, with humans as much as animals, but we tend to accede to indignant human self-reports that they are indeed conscious. How might you react if it were suggested that you were not? There is a similar issue to do with the notion of pain. We tend to think that for there to be "pain" there must be suffering, and suffering implies consciousness. It is usual in medical setting to accept human self-reports as to whether or not they are experiencing pain. In these areas we assign high privilege to the language capabilities of humans compared to other animals. However, humans, and therefore presumably other animals, can exhibit behavioural signs of experiencing pain, and yet be anaesthetised to the experience of pain. That is, behavioural correlates do not necessarily indicate suffering (pain). Similarly humans affected by certain drugs or dementias can exhibit behaviours we normally associate with consciousness. This can even include quite convincing social conversations which seem to proceed from some form of automated neural pilot with no one actually "at home", that is, no one acting at a conscious level. I think it is important that the article does not obscure core issue like these by introducing too much distracting material about behaviours just because they might be plausibility associated with consciousness. --Epipelagic (talk) 12:19, 1 June 2015 (UTC)