The Science of Consciousness:

Chapter 5: Animal Consciousness

What this chapter is about: Which animals are conscious, and how can we tell?

I am sure Beau, my pooodle, is conscious - he is aware. I am less certain that he is self-aware, but I think he is. What about a fish? A worm?

I have written a blog about mental illness and its relation to consciousness. Existential concerns are limited to humans. Beau doesn't have a phobia about death (I think); I do.


The evolution of consciousness

At some point - we don't know when and probably never will - some animals started being conscious. Were trilobites conscious? We should remember that we think of consciousness as being on a continuum, so at first some animals started being a little bit conscious. The emergence of self-awareness is more dramatic: at some point a few million years ago some animals started thinking about themselves and their consciousness.


In the news


Cephalopods feel pain

On the BBC site and elsewhere in June 2021. An octopus is intelligent, sentient, and feels pain, and should be protected by the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill - even though they're invertebrates. Just because these animals process information in a different way from us, and lack a single brain, doesn't mean they are incapable of feeling pain - see here for the orginal Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation report. I'm surprised that anyone who knows anything about octopuses (and crustaceans including lobsters) would think otherwise.

See also:

´╗┐Crook, R. J. (2021). Behavioral and neurophysiological evidence suggests affective pain experience in octopus. IScience, 24(3), 102229. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2021.102229