In search of animal consciousness

In search of animal consciousness

Even if the definition of the term “consciousness” It is still a matter of debateWe have long agreed that mammals and birds have behaviors that can be linked to consciousness, write the signatories New York Declaration. For example, we can train crows to describe different light signals presented to them using head movements.

However, over the past 10 years, experiments have indicated that all vertebrates (reptiles, amphibians, fish) and many invertebrates (cephalopods, crustaceans, fish) could be added to the list. The authors of the ad also provide several examples of behavior.

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Among other things, it can clean fish Recognize yourself in the mirror While the garter snake can distinguish its smell from the smell of another snake. Bees seem to be able to do this Having fun with wooden balls. Cancer can weigh the pros and cons between two options, before making a decision. Finally, fruit flies sleep better in the presence of other flies, and may have sleep stages similar to REM sleep in humans.

Consciousness or perception?

The signatories state that the term “conscience” can have several meanings. In the context of the statement, they describe it as the ability to subjectively perceive one's environment, that is, to feel emotions, pain or well-being. As well as the perception of tastes, smells and sounds. These experiences are more complex than simply detecting a stimulus. However, the scientists who described these behaviors did not go so far as to assume that they required the use of reason or language.

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Some experts are skeptical. in Interview for the magazine natureNeuroscientist Hakuan Lau points out that there is a real distinction between conscious and unconscious perceptions, but it is not always easy to distinguish them clearly.

The signatories of the declaration admit that there is still no certainty about many of the animals they are targeting. However, they argue that the possibility of granting an animal a form of consciousness should force more serious consideration of its welfare.

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