Does Life Not Begin Until We Are 18-24 Months?

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According to BBC's "The Secret You," humans do not become self-aware until the age of 18-24 months. This is tested by placing a red dot on children's faces without their knowing, and then seeing if they realize it is there when placed in front of a mirror. If they reach up to their face to investigate the dot they see in their reflection, they are self-aware.


My niece is 17 months. Before today, I thought she was completely self-aware. I know she understands she is looking at a person when standing in front of a mirror, like the boy did at the beginning of the video. She may even realize that it is the same face she usually sees when looking in a mirror, but what does that mean? I'm not sure she'd recognize the red dot on her cheek right away like the 22 month old girl did. I took the below picture with my niece about a month ago on my computer, so she was 16 months. Right when she saw our faces come up on the screen, she waved. She knew she was looking at people's faces, but she probably didn't understand it was her own.

Photo on 2012-01-23 at 17.22.jpg

Before becoming completely self-aware, babies are constantly experiencing and learning new things. So, if we become self-aware around 18-24 months, what are we before then? Do babies carry out ideas without knowing how they do it? Do they think of the desired result, like playing with a toy, and their body simply takes care of the walking and picking it up without them realizing? I would love to know how a baby's mind works, because I don't quite understand how we can even function without knowing we are our own "self".

And self-awareness goes hand in hand with memory, I believe. My earliest memory was getting my pet dog when I was just under 2 years old, and I don't think it's a coincidence that that falls under the period where one becomes self-aware. I don't think you can have one without the other. So, I could argue that my life didn't truly start as a full-fledged, self-aware person until I was 2, right?


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Interesting and thought provoking blog. My opinion of your questions is that young babies are entirely stimuli orientated. What I mean by this is that they do things to feel pleasure or avoid displeasure, not because they actually know what they are doing. I guess you could argue that your life did not start until you were two, however, babies can learn when they are under two so I feel like once you have the ability to learn, that is when your life truly starts in my opinion.

Really interesting blog. I agree that life doesn't start when you become self aware but I never thought of it that way.

Again, super interesting topic. Obviously life starts at a different point other than the point where we become self-aware, but your post raises a important question on identity: where does identity start? There are different levels of identity and how it develops, but we obviously take our ability to be self-aware for granted.

I always stand in front of mirrors with my baby cousins or with kids I'm babysitting. They always smile and wave, but I guess I never realized that they had no idea it was themselves that they were seeing! Though babies may not be self aware until that age, I would still say they have life before then, making what seems like conscious decisions and even having a personality of their own!

I find this quite a dubious question myself. Is the knowledge of self that has a baby realize she is looking at a image of herself in a mirror or the experience with mirrors to understand that they are reflections. Would she be confused when the baby sees an image of a mother in the mirror and still be looking t her mother. They do say babies recognize their mothers. You could do a study with twins where one is the mother and her sister and see if the baby can distinguish between the actual twin and the reflection of the mother. This would not find any thing conclusive about being self aware but could tell about babies awareness of mirrors.

Although babies have life since they are born, but they may don't know what they are doing before 18 months. Even they response to some stimuli, they still do not have the self awareness. Just like almost all of us do not have the memory before three years old.

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This page contains a single entry by smit6163 published on February 23, 2012 2:50 PM.

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