carne117: October 2011 Archives

When We Know Who We Are

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After watching the BBC Horizon: The Secret You, I was better able to understand when we become aware as we are as ourselves. Marcus was trying to recall the point where he became conscious, but was not able to do so. He then was able to recall when he realized that his son became self aware, which happened at around 18 months. The most common test for self awareness is the mirror self recognition test. In this test a toddler will be put in front of a mirror. They will first be given the chance to see their reflection and become familiar with it. Their parents would then pretend to wipe their nose and while doing so place a sticker on the toddler's cheek with out them knowing. The test is then to see whether the toddler will recognize that they have a sticker on their cheek. The signs of recognition are if the toddlers attempt to remove the mark. If they do, this shows that they realize that it is them who they see in the mirror. These are the first signs of self recognition. This usually happens between the ages of 18-24 months. After this realization, Marcus began to question whether animals could recognize self, or even a single cell. After research we have been able to conclude that those who are members of the Great Apes family (Humans, Chimpanzees and Orangutans) are able to recognize themselves. He puts it as "we engage in a mental time travel."

I find self awareness to be very interesting, but also very tricky. Even today when I look in the mirror, I can recognize myself, but I feel I look different every time I look. It makes me realize that our subconscious mind is very complex and hard to understand. I think it is very worthwhile and interesting to study further on the interworking of our consciousness.

The brain really has a mind of its own. This can be seen when talking about the placebo effect. The placebo effect is the improvement resulting from the mere expectation of improvement. In an experiment testing the effectiveness of a certain drug, one group may be given a placebo, or a blank pill. The group does not know that they have received a blank pill, and records positive improvements. This leads scientist to believe that the mere fact that people know they are taking a pill, they trick their body into thinking they are getting better. The placebo effect can help us determine how effective things are, such as medicine.
Here is an example of the workings of a placebo affect:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFCdhr6l3ls

Though this example is a bit different than a blank pill, it still shows the same effect. College students wanted to prank new freshman by serving non alcoholic beer. The freshman didn't know that they were being served non alcoholic beer and were fooled into thinking that they were drunk. Based on this video, they did in fact feel intoxicated and were even vomiting.
It is hard to tell if anything really will become of the placebo effect. Will it eventually be used as a cure? If people record to significantly feeling better after unknowingly taking a placebo pill, could it actually be used as a cure? Though it is used in experimental design, I think it deserves some of its own experimenting itself.

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by carne117 in October 2011.

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