German scientists called the main signs of the presence of consciousness in animals
(ORDO NEWS) — Owners of cats or dogs have no doubt that their pets are self-aware, but when it comes to fish, worms, or even birds, things are far from clear.
Now German researchers have tried to determine what qualities a self-aware animal should have.
Scientists are constantly debating whether animals are self-aware, and if so, which species. According to one point of view, consciousness is like a light on in a room: either it is on or it is not.
According to another, it can rather be compared with a fire burning in a fireplace, and in some species the embers barely smolder, while in others the flame blazes brightly.
However, researchers from the Ruhr University (Germany) do not agree with any of these points of view: in their opinion, ten aspects of consciousness can be distinguished, while some aspects may be more pronounced in some species, others in others.
Scientists propose to distinguish between strong and weak indicators of consciousness and attribute each of them to certain aspects, which will allow us to measure how much subjective experience differs between species and in comparison with people.
Simple forms of perception and processing of sensory information cannot be indicators of consciousness, however, in a number of species more complex forms of perception have been found, for example, the ability to identify or classify perceived objects according to various characteristics.
For example, Alex the parrot could describe the same object as red, round, and metallic, while dogs are able to bring a variety of objects on command, which, in addition, the owner does not always name directly.
The authors also consider episodic memory as one of the strong indicators of consciousness , which is well documented in some species, such as rats.
Scientists argue that there is a close relationship between consciousness, complex memory, learning abilities and perception.
To obtain reliable results, it would be useful if behavioral observations could be combined with neuroscience data, and such experiments are being carried out today.
While people do not know enough about what features of the brain allow us to be aware of ourselves, therefore, it can be difficult to compare different species with a fundamentally different structure of the nervous system.
However, the authors of a study their approach to classifying indicators of consciousness in animals may allow in the future to answer the question of which species have consciousness and how it differs in worms and birds.
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