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Dogs and Other Animals May Be More Self-Aware Than First Thought
This is a nice addition to the findings of the “yellow snow” study.
New studies have been coming out that show that dogs are smarter than we have traditionally thought. Dogs have certain prosocial abilities and advanced cognitive behaviors. Researchers have even uncovered some wild African dogs who vote through sneezing.
But how much self-awareness do dogs actually have? Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, a psychologist at Bernard’s College in New York City, wanted to find out. She and colleagues decided to test a hypothesis put forth by Italian biologist Prof. Roberto Cazzolla Gatti. He hails from Tomsk State University in Russia. Horowitz and colleagues conducted two experiments were performed at the Dog Cognitive Lab at Bernard.
There’s a well-known test for self-awareness called the mirror test. Researchers have been using it since the 1970s. You set up a mirror and see how the subject reacts to it. If they touch themselves rather than the mirror, the species is considered self-aware. Bonobos and orangutans recognize themselves, as do dolphins. The jury is still out on chimpanzees. Dogs not so much. Usually, a dog will bark at a mirror as if it’s another dog then ignore it.
The innovation here is that rather than sight, dogs navigate the environment through their sense of smell. So instead of a visual mirror, Horowitz and colleagues fashioned an olfactory one. Their findings were published in the journal Behavioural Processes.
Dogs rely on their sense of smell, which may make the mirror test a moot point. Credit: Georgia Pinaud, Lille, France. Wikimedia Commons.
Biologist Marc Bekoff back in 2001 noticed that when he took his dog Jethro for a walk, the pooch was more interested in the odor from other dogs’ urine than his own. But that had to mean he recognized his own urine. Bekoff conducted his own study over the course of five consecutive winters. He strategically moved the pee of Jethro and others dogs to see what his dog recognized and what he didn’t. This eventually became known as the “yellow snow” study. Bekoff concluded Jethro “clearly had some sense of ‘self’: a sense of ‘mine-ness’ but not necessarily of ‘I-ness’.”
Dr. Horowitz took this one step farther, borrowing from this and Prof. Cazzolla Gatti. The latter in 2016 proposed as a "Sniff test of self-recognition (STSR)." Dr. Horowitz ran two experiments. In the first, she recruited 36 domestic dogs and their owners. They allowed the dogs to roam free and smell any of three canisters within a penned-in area.
One contained their own urine, the second another dog’s, and the third their own urine again with another scent added in. The second experiment used only 12 dogs and changed the third urine sample to a more “neutral” scent. In both experiments the last canister, which had the dogs own urine with something added in, garnered the most interest.
Dogs are likely at least somewhat self-aware, though perhaps not as much as us. Credit: Getty Images.
There’s a variation of the mirror test, known as the mark test. If a mark is placed on a mirror, a bonobo for instance will try and remove it from its own face. This shows greater self-awareness. They know what they’re supposed to look like, what’s wrong, and how to fix it. So one grave difference is that even though the dogs knew something had changed in their sniff-related self-image, they didn’t have the ability to correct it. Dr. Horowitz believes this study shows that dogs are at least somewhat self-aware.
Dr. Gordon Gallup, creator of the mark test, disagrees. He defines self-awareness as “the ability to become the object of your own attention.” Increasing attention to something doesn’t prove the dog is self-aware, according to Gallup.
It may simply find the smell in that particular canister more novel. That doesn’t mean he or she recognizes itself. Gallup also questions the results of the mark test on dolphins, who cannot touch themselves the way say an orangutan can. Other experts believe the study’s methodology alone is noteworthy.
It stands in effect as a paradigm shift. We are now gaining insight into the self-consciousness of other animals. Before, we thought only humans and great apes had self-awareness. But it’s more than that. Scientists are now approaching other animals on species-specific abilities, to understand whether or not they’re self-aware and to what extent, in ways never considered before.
To learn more about the mirror test, click here:
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated.
Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.
Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology.