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Human beings are a species of primate that has accomplished advanced intellectual and technological achievements.
Humans are noted for their desire to understand and influence the world around them, seeking to explain and manipulate natural phenomena through science, religion, philosophy and mythology. This natural curiosity has led to the development of advanced tools and skills; humans are the only species to build fires, cook their food, clothe themselves, and use numerous other technologies. It has also led to the exploration of spiritual concepts such as the soul and deities, and has factored into the self-awareness of humans, leading to self-reflection and the development of distinct personalities.
Humans vs. animals
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Brain, mind, and consciousness
The human brain is the center of the central nervous system in humans, as well as the primary control center for the peripheral nervous system. The brain controls "lower", or involuntary, autonomic activities such as heart rate, respiration, and digestion. The brain also controls "higher" order, conscious activities, such as thought, reasoning, and abstraction. The human brain is generally regarded as more capable of these higher order activities, and more "intelligent" in general, than any other species. While other animals are capable of creating structures and using simple tools—mostly as a result of instinct and learning through mimicry—human technology is vastly more complex, constantly evolving and improving with time. Even the most ancient human tools and structures are far more advanced than any structure or tool created by any other animal.
The human ability to think abstractly may be unparalleled in the animal kingdom. Human beings are one of only six species to pass the mirror test—which tests whether an animal recognizes its reflection as an image of itself—along with chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, dolphins and pigeons. Human beings under the age of 2 typically fail this test.
Humans are variously said to possess consciousness, self-awareness, and a mind, which correspond roughly to the mental processes of thought. These are said to possess qualities such as self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and one's environment. The extent to which the mind constructs or experiences the outer world is a matter of debate, as are the definitions and validity of many of the terms used above. Cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, for example, argues that there is no such thing as a narrative centre called the "mind", but that instead there is simply a collection of sensory inputs and outputs: different kinds of software running in parallel.
Humans study the more physical aspects of the mind and brain, and by extension of the nervous system, in the field of neurology, the more behavioral in the field of psychology, and a sometimes loosely-defined area between in the field of psychiatry, which treats mental illness and behavioral disorders. Psychology does not necessarily refer to the brain or nervous system, and can be framed purely in terms of phenomenological or information processing theories of the mind. Increasingly, however, an understanding of brain functions is being included in psychological theory and practice, particularly in areas such as artificial intelligence, neuropsychology, and cognitive neuroscience.
The nature of thought is central to psychology and related fields. Cognitive psychology studies cognition, the mental processes underlying behavior. It uses information processing as a framework for understanding the mind. Perception, learning, problem solving, memory, attention, language and emotion are all well-researched areas as well. Cognitive psychology is associated with a school of thought known as cognitivism, whose adherents argue for an information processing model of mental function, informed by positivism and experimental psychology. Techniques and models from cognitive psychology are widely applied and form the mainstay of psychological theories in many areas of both research and applied psychology. Largely focusing on the development of the human mind through the life span, developmental psychology seeks to understand how people come to perceive, understand, and act within the world and how these processes change as they age. This may focus on intellectual, cognitive, neural, social, or moral development.
Social psychology links sociology with psychology in their shared study of the nature and causes of human social behavior, with an emphasis on how people think towards each other and how they relate to each other. The behavior and mental processes of animals, both human and non-human, can be described through animal cognition, ethology, evolutionary psychology, and comparative psychology as well. Human ecology is an academic discipline that investigates how humans and human societies interact with both their natural environment and the human social environment.
Motivation and emotion
Motivation is the driving force of desire behind all actions of any organism. Motivation is based on emotion—specifically, on the search for satisfaction (positive emotional experiences), and the avoidance of conflict; positive and negative are defined by the individual brain state, not by social norms: a person may be driven to self-injury or violence because their brain is conditioned to create a positive response to these actions. Motivation is important because it is involved in the performance of all learned responses.
Within psychology, conflict avoidance and the libido are seen to be primary motivators. Within economics motivation is often seen to be based on Financial incentives, Moral incentives, or Coercive incentives. Religions generally posit Godly or demonic influences.
Happiness, or being happy, is a human emotional condition. The definition of happiness is a common philosophical topic. Some people might define it as the best condition which a human can have - a condition of mental and physical health. Others may define it as freedom from want and distress; consciousness of the good order of things; assurance of one's place in the universe or society, inner peace, and so forth.
Human emotion has a significant influence on, or can even be said to control, human behavior. Emotional experiences perceived as pleasant, like love, admiration, or joy, contrast with those perceived as unpleasant, like hate, envy, or sorrow. There is often a distinction seen between refined emotions, which are socially learned, and survival oriented emotions, which are thought to be innate.
Human exploration of emotions as separate from other neurological phenomena is worth note, particularly in those cultures where emotion is considered separate from physiological state. In some cultural medical theories, to provide an example, emotion is considered so synonymous with certain forms of physical health that no difference is thought to exist. The Stoics believed excessive emotion was harmful, while some Sufi teachers (in particular, the poet and astronomer Omar Khayyám) felt certain extreme emotions could yield a conceptual perfection, what is often translated as ecstasy.
In modern scientific thought, certain refined emotions are considered to be a complex neural trait of many domesticated and a few non-domesticated mammals, developed commonly in reaction to superior survival mechanisms and intelligent interaction with each other and the environment; as such, refined emotion is not in all cases as discrete and separate from natural neural function as was once assumed. Still, when humans function in civilized tandem, it has been noted that uninhibited acting on extreme emotion can lead to social disorder and crime.
Love and sexuality
Human sexuality, besides ensuring biological reproduction, has important social functions: it creates physical intimacy, bonds and hierarchies among individuals; may be directed to spiritual transcendence; and in a hedonistic sense to the enjoyment of activity involving sexual gratification. Sexual desire, or libido, is experienced as a bodily urge, often accompanied by strong emotions, both positive (such as love or ecstasy) and negative (such as jealousy).
As with other human self-descriptions, humans propose that it is high intelligence and complex societies of humans that have produced the most complex sexual behaviors of any animal, including a great many behaviors that are not directly connected with reproduction.
Human sexual choices are usually made in reference to cultural norms, which vary widely. Restrictions are largely determined by religious beliefs. Most sexologists, starting with the pioneers Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey, believe that the majority of homo sapiens are attracted to males and females, being inherently bisexual. This belief is based upon the human species close relatives' sexual habits such as the bonobo, and historical records particularly the widespread ancient practices of pederasty.
|Wikispecies has information related to Homo sapiens|
- 3-D Brain Anatomy, The Secret Life of the Brain, Public Broadcasting Service, retrieved April 3 2005.
- Sagan, Carl (1978). The Dragons of Eden. A Balantine Book. ISBN 0345346297.
- Consciousness and the Symbolic Universe, by Dr. Jack Palmer, retrieved March 17, 2006.
- Dennett, Daniel (1991). Consciousness Explained. Little Brown & Co, 1991, ISBN 0316180653.