It’s ridiculous. Let’s consider If you are born deaf and blind, do you lack self awareness because you have less senses available?

I think the “mirror test” of intelligence is a bit of primitive ridiculousness still practiced in psychology (human and animal) as some kind of provability-of-intelligence. But I don’t buy it. That’s recognition of visual form and applying visual form to self.

I know that’s standard and what’s been the test for a very long time but consider how primitive that is of a test, one which we draw such far-reaching conclusions from?

Up until 1984, in the AMA, it was believed babies didn’t feel pain because they didn’t pass the mirror test. They didn’t have recognition of self, therefore no self-awareness, therefore the pain they felt wasn’t REALLY pain of self (because they had no sense of self, as the mirror test shows) but it was instead primitive automated reactions that “didn’t count” somehow.

Somehow self had to be some sort of visual model of self in the brain for there to be self-awareness.

It’s ridiculous. Let’s consider If you are born deaf and blind, do you lack self awareness because you have less senses available?

Yet, you can feel the wind on your face. You can feel heat. You know pain and that it’s you. Blind and deaf people react to pain. They communicate however they can, and can learn to communicate in ways meaningful to us visual/auditory people.

Our current models of are too heavily reliant upon vision and reaction.


Something desperately lacking in current scientific models is a lack of first person perspective.

I’m well read on the accepted processes and practices. The current models are weak, and necessarily so: until there is provability of self-awareness (such as making a surprise noise upon seeing one’s own face in the mirror), all they can say is, “no provable self-awareness”.

But, that’s a limitation of the testing procedures.

Through the years, this self-awareness issue has justified a lot of horrendous things.

Consider coma patients.

Until just a few years ago, it was believed they felt no pain because whatever test they threw at them, didn’t show awareness.

Lots of awful things done to coma patients based upon what amounted to poor testing procedures.

Now, they know better. Coma patients _are_ aware, at least some of them are, at least some of the time.


The way we model self-consciousness is coherent and useful but it’s limited.

Through the past century and a half of modern psychology and modern medicine, the line between “innate” and “learned”, “unconscious/automatic” vs “conscious” has been shifting quite a bit.

The controversy has never gone away.

People with Autism were treated horribly all through the late 1970s because of the self-awareness line being drawn incorrectly.

Babies were not given anesthesia thanks to the line being drawn incorrectly.

Today, there’s a segment of people who believe that we’re not really conscious at all: Just the mathematical product of statistical probabilities. To them, consciousness is an illusion, free will is an illusion, we’re all just running on scripted automation – shades of Skinner but with a bit more stats.

[I actually like a lot of Skinner’s behavioralism we ARE more automated than we want to believe, and he was VERY methodical with his Science… but he was too far in that particular direction, and once you’re aware of your patterns, you can change them, rendering the automation invalid as a necessity but more of a bad habit].

Keller isn’t really the best example though because she lost her vision/hearing at 19 months old.

By 19 months old, that’s OLD cognitively. She’d already learned a LOT about herself and the world.

What happened to her is that she was set-back, and it took a special helper to recover and build upon what she’d already learned in the first 19 months.



To me the really interesting stuff happens pre-birth up to 6 months of age. By 6 months, you see the beginnings of a truly social creature and by 9 months, they’re afraid of strangers and most easily pass the mirror test.

Oh good! Just did a quick Google: I’m not the only one that had misgivings about the mirror test of self-awareness:





Oh I’ve had that! Not in a long time. I think they call it sleep paralysis. Scary as shit. Only had it happen a few times. First time I was about 13/14/15. There was nothing but fear. Then after an indescribable amount of time, the words started talking over themselves.

Then I could mentally verbalize my fear to myself and could “see dark”.

Then FINALLY I could open my eyes and feel my eyelids opening but felt nothing else of my body.

Scary as shit that was.



Currently, most of cog sci and medical science errs on the side of “tests say not self-aware, therefore not self-aware”.
I’d rather err on the side of “treat as if self-aware”, simply because they’ve made too many mistakes in the past assuming “not self-aware” when they were, or treating pain as automated reactions that weren’t real, somehow because they couldn’t verbalize the pain in other ways.
I was born at 6.5 months in 1972. I was lucky that I didn’t need surgery or anything, just kept in an incubator and picked up a few times a day and stuff ’cause at that time, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t have used anesthesia on me… based upon some faulty academic notion of self-awareness and
 The innate ability to be conditioned? Not sure. I mean we seem to have some thing that are built-in. “circuits” for lack of a better analogy.
  I believe that a lot of our processes are difficult to control and that compassion is necessary – a requirement for a functioning society.But there’s dangers to the “no free will” argument. Culpability.I don’t remember who, but there’s one guy, who writes books and gives a lot of talks who has been pushing this perspective, implying that cognitive science nearly has all of the answers and since we can’t find free will, there is no free will, and that it’s just a matter of time before we have it all figured out, in which case, no one will ultimately be culpable for crime, which means we need to use Science instead of the courts in the future.Thing is: cognitive science _isn’t_ almost there. We’re nowhere *near* these points he’s talking about.It’s overconfidence in his field. I’m glad he’s doing the neurolaw thing: somebody has to and it’s marvelous. But cog-sci shouldn’t take over the courts. Science acts as an adviser but not as the final say, nor should it. It’s not time.All of the systems would require an overhaul and .. here’s the thing: it’s attempting to replace judges and juries interpretations with the interpretations of cognitive scientists, putting himself and those in his field as replacement judges and juries.

Not a good idea. Not by far. We’re far from ready for that kind of societal transition.

 We don’t KNOW their sense of self. To say someone doesn’t have sense of self because we can’t detect it socially, doesn’t mean they don’t have sense of self.It means we don’t know how to detect the sense of self using our current measurements.There’s a significant difference there. To say something’s not there because we can’t measure it is fine when you’re dealing with inanimate objects. But when dealing with people or living creatures of any kind, I think it’s wise to be cautious before declaring “there’s nothing there”.
  In my early 20s, I volunteered for a full year, full time at the cerebral palsy center that was nearby me. It supported babies up to 21 years old and I worked with them all.I had to get them out of their shells and interact with others and I enjoyed the heck out of it.What you do is you build upon the tiniest little sign of interaction and slowly grow it.These weren’t all cerebral palsy kids. It was any cognitive disabilities, Downs Syndrome, autism, you name it. Some they didn’t have a proper diagnosis, just “emotionally troubled” or “anxiety” or “non-communicative”.

I worked volunteered there because I wanted to give back.

I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when I was a toddler.

That center (in Union New Jersey), worked with me from the age of 2-4 years old, using physical and occupational therapy. By the age of 5, I was able to enter kindergarten in public school. Nobody knew. There’s no signs.

So, it’s a personal issue for me, this issue between innate and learned, between “reflex” and “thought out”. etc.

I had to WORK AT things that are considered “automatic” in others.

I wanted to see it from the other point of view when I was 22, and did so. I got to do the kinds of things that were done for me at that age.

*IS* there self-awareness even when there doesn’t appear to be any when tested?

I’d assume yes until absolutely certain otherwise.

 The true scientist ideal is a nice one but it’s not a real-world scientist. There’s a science culture that’s quite real and falsification isn’t typically on the agenda when someone needs to be published. It’s a career. A job. Publishing is one of their duties – and sources of funding in many cases, especially in University research.Nobody pays for falsification unless there’s extrinsic motivation (political, social, financial) Even fewer pay for corroboration. Besides, if you go falsifying someone else’s results, you have to face them at the next conference.It’s the reality of it. Popper gave some great ideals but it’s the kind of thing that gets talked about more than done. It’s generally impractical.

One has to look at the holistic picture rather than the ideals. The ideals are nice but what really happens? That’s what really happens.

 Culturally, there’s been a far greater trust in Science as an ideal, almost to the level of the 1950s and to the levels of the 1920s, although the 20s was the heydey of theory (as today) and the 50s were more the heydey of engineering. The 00s-today are the days of theory and ideals again, especially post 2010 with the greater focus on STEM in education as the potential cure-all for society’s ills.[unfortunately, the STEM improvements are limited to occasional robotics contests and such… the actual classwork is still crap, at least the stuff my nephew’s been going through. He’s just entering 6th grade and he hates Science. He likes math and potentially engineering, but science? Nope. I’ve seen his books. So far, it’s taught just as poorly as it was when I was his age.

 As much as I hate to admit it, I actually love the fact that the wheels of change move sluggishly and cautiously. I hear some of the idealistic stuff coming out of the science advocates: and they’re all awesome speakers and very intelligent in some areas, but when it come to real world stuff, they can be a little head-in-the-clouds.

I keep expecting Bill Nye to run for mayor or something. He’s got a political bug in him – I can feel it. So does Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Not sure about Krauss though: He seems satisfied with editorials and books at the moment.

Trouble with idealists in politics: they get chewed up.

Analogy When I was a boy, I had a true-idealist minister at my church. Methodist. [They taught us that science and christianity were 100% compatible, so when I saw my first religious right nutjobs in my 20s, they looked like aliens talking about something different. They still do].

One year, he decided to run for council in our little 1 square mile borough in NJ. He got in ’cause the other guy got caught in a scandal and the others didn’t want him.

After a year, he swore “never again”.

You could watch him change. 60+ year old idealist getting his ideals about “the way things should be” devoured by the beast of politics and facing the darkest sides of human nature.

He never spoke in detail but he got his #childhoodruined year. Come to think of it, he retired not long after that from being a minister. Poor guy.


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