Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Bits of Self Awareness

Jackson has been having a few revelations about self awareness lately. He has become quite vocal, making all manner of vowel based conversation. Sometimes he'll make strings, repeating the same noise over and over. These times, I'm sure he knows the sound is coming from him. His new thing is to lie on his belly and yell--not in anger or frustration, but just for the shear joy of calling out.
He's also noticed the mirror. We've been stopping to look at we go past, and until now, Jackson never focused on the silver reflections. Just this week he's noticed the people. He stares wide-eyed at the glass. He definitely recognizes his Mommy and Daddy. He definitely knows there's a baby in the frame. I don't see the indication that he recognizes himself, but he does see the baby.

These advances make me consider self-awareness in general. There are ongoing animal studies attempting to show self awareness, usually with large primates. When the studies are complete, the headlines are huge. It's as if its a surprise that animals have a concept of self. Why don't we make the assumption that they do until it can be shown that they don't? It's just as valid an hypothesis, less anthropo-centric, but just as valid.
I believe that self awareness exists to varying degrees across the species. It appears to be arrived at incrementally. For example, my coonhound, Mabel, has some degree of self awareness. She knows when she's howling. She is aware of her paw on my lap and can play games to mirror my actions. She appears to have self awareness of the front half of her body. The rear half is another story. Everytime she toots it surprises her, and she turns around to see where the sound came from. I'll keep looking for indications that my child displays more self awareness than my dog.

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