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Reflections on Animal Selves
  • Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado
  • Paul W. Sherman, Cornell University
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Is self-cognizance a uniquely human attribute, or do other animals also have a sense of self? Although there is considerable interest in this question, answers remain elusive. Progress has been stymied by misunderstandings in terminology, a focus on a narrow range of species, and controversies over key concepts, experimental paradigms and interpretations of data. Here, we propose a new conceptual and terminological framework, emphasizing that degrees of self-cognizance differ among animals because of the cognitive demands that their species-specific social structures and life-history characteristics have placed upon them over evolutionary time. We suggest that the self-cognizance of an organism falls at a point on a continuum of social complexity and conscious involvement.

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Citation Information
Bekoff, M., & Sherman, P. W. (2004). Reflections on animal selves. Trends in ecology & evolution, 19(4), 176-180.