Awareness and Distinguishing Characteristics

When I look at a fly on the wall, and another of the same species lands next to it, I cannot distinguish one from the other. They - [i:1wzjvpsd]to me[/i:1wzjvpsd]- are identical. The same is true of my perceptions and observations of many/most other species (other than sexual distinctions, sizes, and in smaller numbers - textures and colors). For example, when I look at say, a group of pigs, I see no discernable differences between them. Perhaps pictures will better illustrate what I am getting at:

Flies
[img:1wzjvpsd]http://fruitfly.files.wordpress.com/2007/06/mexican-fruit-flies.jpg[/img:1wzjvpsd]

Pigs
[img:1wzjvpsd]http://images.quickblogcast.com/67444-59106/three_pigs.jpg[/img:1wzjvpsd]

Chimps
[img:1wzjvpsd]http://www.universalgiving.org/photo/image.do?id=695[/img:1wzjvpsd]

Monarch Butterflies
[img:1wzjvpsd]http://msnbcmedia4.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photo_StoryLevel/071204/071204_butterflies_vmed_11a.widec.jpg[/img:1wzjvpsd]


You get the drift.

Now, let us consider humans. Why is each human (debatable - identical twins) completely distinguishable in relation to others? I can look at any two humans and tell them apart immediately. I do not have to communicate with them to effectively be 'aware' of their visual differences instantaneously.

[img:1wzjvpsd]http://www.scotsindependent.org/2006/060310/people_from_all_races.jpg[/img:1wzjvpsd]

Perhaps this can lead to an insightful discussion on awareness, perception, and identity. It could also eclipse the psychological and move to a more philosophical and theological premise if so desired.

Anyone care to offer their opinions, insights, observations? Ridicule of my warped mind is also permitted.
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Comments

  • The pigs are cute..
  • said:

    The pigs are cute..[/quote:20dahoia]

    Much cuter here:
    [img:20dahoia]http://www.slashfood.com/media/2006/1/bacon5.jpg[/img:20dahoia]

  • said:

    Why is each human (debatable - identical twins) completely distinguishable in relation to others? [/quote:2ed7ge3w]

    They aren't. That's the problem with cross racial identification.

  • Azns all look alike, amirite?

    Look at the butterflies more carefully, their wing markings are similar, but not identical.

    [img:176w0ggi]http://msnbcmedia4.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photo_StoryLevel/071204/071204_butterflies_vmed_11a.widec.jpg[/img:176w0ggi]

    How about the species [i:176w0ggi]Canis Familiaris?[/i:176w0ggi] Note that these are all members of the same species, just like humans are.

    Here's one...

    [img:176w0ggi]http://imagecache02a.allposters.com/images/NPLPOD/1149232.jpg[/img:176w0ggi]

    Two more... (same species!)

    [img:176w0ggi]http://farm1.static.flickr.com/172/454132146_bf97237320.jpg[/img:176w0ggi]

    And some more, still [i:176w0ggi]Canis Familiaris.[/i:176w0ggi]

    [img:176w0ggi]http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/miniature-pinscher.jpg[/img:176w0ggi]
  • I would suggest that we are somewhat conditioned to look for the minute differences in our fellow human beings, for such is how we distinguish one from another from birth.

    Not quite so with other species, yet people that work with the various species in question can immediately see the differences and know which is which. Take cows for instance. When I was still involved in dairy farming, we had a herd of 100+ cows. I knew each one, where it stood in the barn, her habits when feeding or milking, etc., and which ones would kick out your eyeballs simply for standing on the wrong side verus the ones that would let a kid ride them around the yard. To the untrained observer, they were all big black and white animals, one indistinguishable from the other.

    Further, I knew my chickens, pigs, dogs, and even the wild birds that came to our feeder all winter long. You just have to look, recognize, and assimilate, which we do naturally with our fellow human beings.

    An interesting twist on this topic would be to introduce the question in respect to seeing people in major cities, where there are so many all the time. As a somewhat rural visitor to major cities, I've noticed that no one "sees" anyone else for the most part. There may be a cursory glance, likely to give an immediate (and perhaps wrong) assessment of danger levels involved with the person riding the metro next to you, but after that, everyone is in their own little world, "seeing" but not seeing. When I "looked" at people -- catching their eye -- they almost acted as if I had somehow violated their personal space. More so if I actually dared to speak to them -- until they warmed to the conversation -- and after that it seemed as if they were eager to engage, as if it were for some reason rare and perhaps even enjoyable.
  • said:

    When I "looked" at people -- catching their eye -- they almost acted as if I had somehow violated their personal space.[/quote:200wf5a8]
    That's understandable, were you handing out pamphlets?

    :mrgreen:

  • said:

    said:

    When I "looked" at people -- catching their eye -- they almost acted as if I had somehow violated their personal space.[/quote:a17u3igg]
    That's understandable, were you handing out pamphlets?

    :mrgreen:[/quote:a17u3igg]

    No... I leave that for people that think that means is effective. When I am in some major city for business purposes, I like to actually talk to locals in that city. I'm always on a hunt to learn new things, and to discover what I can discover while I'm in some particular area -- it may stem in part from my master's degree work in cultural anthropolgy, or it may stem from the rural culture that I carry with me wherever I go -- in rural areas, people tend to talk to each other as if they are in this race called life together. I'm still unacustomed to people acting and living like rats, each in their own little hidey-hole -- but that's what I so often find in big cities. On my recent trip to Washington DC, for instance, I failed to engage anyone in conversation -- ever. How sad. But each person was in his or her own little world, many punching away on their BB devices. They were probably typing on web forums, looking to talk to someone...

  • said:

    I'm still unacustomed to people acting and living like rats, each in their own little hidey-hole -- but that's what I so often find in big cities. On my recent trip to Washington DC, for instance, I failed to engage anyone in conversation -- ever. How sad. But each person was in his or her own little world, many punching away on their BB devices. They were probably typing on web forums, looking to talk to someone...[/quote:31801mrr]

    The [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystander_effect:31801mrr]bystander effect[/url:31801mrr], manifested in a different form. People in large/unknown groups behave differently than in small "known" groups. It's like following the crowd...tailgating the person in front of you...doing what others are doing and "blending in".

    DC is not your fathers Main Street USA.

    Doesn't really have much to do with this discussion though.

  • I had actually tried to write a thread on this once, but then it deleted itself and I went waaaaaaaaaah.

    So here you go:

    [img:20uemv5n]http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Miss_Universe_manitou2121.jpg/800px-Miss_Universe_manitou2121.jpg[/img:20uemv5n]

    [img:20uemv5n]http://updownacross.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/kineda.jpg[/img:20uemv5n]

    [img:20uemv5n]http://img526.imageshack.us/img526/6586/20071214gd2dwondergirlsws4.jpg[/img:20uemv5n]

    Its true, all asians look alike. Sure, there are subtle differences. My lady friend is asian, and I started noticing that there are definetly differences in facial structure, but largely, there are a few really archetypical types of faces, and they all seem to have a very small degree to which they commonly change.

    [img:20uemv5n]http://www.dailyhaha.com/_pics/all_asians_look_alike.jpg[/img:20uemv5n]
  • You could say the same about Scandinavians or Greeks, certain racial groups or even groups within a race have different set of features or physical traits. Being half-Italian, I'm unfortunately hairier than the average guy of non-Mediterranean descent.
  • I remember thinking on this topic when I was eight, looking at an ant hill. I reasoned if I were an ant and could see antennae to antennae, I would be able to tell my buddies apart. Guy hit on most of my conclusions pretty well. The only thing I would add is that we cannot really [i:8rtmyvui]know[/i:8rtmyvui] what it is like for other species. Maybe we really [i:8rtmyvui]are[/i:8rtmyvui] objectively easier to differentiate, the whole [i:8rtmyvui]imago dei[/i:8rtmyvui] thing (which brings it back into topic for this forum).
    said:

    On my recent trip to Washington DC, for instance, I failed to engage anyone in conversation -- ever.[/quote:8rtmyvui]
    Yep. That's DC. Furthermore, I notice many times that if you establish eye contact with a smile on an approaching stranger, the approaching stranger will look another direction, adjust the hair, or itch the face. Normally, I think, the isolation is bi-directional, but at least I try to eliminate one side of the equation. It's not natural here, though. The culture subliminally impresses upon you to stay isolated. I don't like it.

  • said:

    Maybe we really [i:kst3fsbf]are[/i:kst3fsbf] objectively easier to differentiate, the whole [i:kst3fsbf]imago dei[/i:kst3fsbf] thing (which brings it back into topic for this forum). [/quote:kst3fsbf]
    That's counterintuitive; if we were all modeled after the same being, we would all look the same.

    As for ants, they likely recognize each other by touch or smell, not visually, much like dogs sniff each other.

  • said:


    That's counterintuitive; if we were all modeled after the same being, we would all look the same.[/quote:2t8eaxx0]

    That's jumping to conclusions. You have no way of knowing this.

    As for the dogs example, you missed the point. Instead you picked a word I used (species) in an admittingly incorrect manner on my part, and exploited this by inadvertantly illustrating what I am inquiring about in the first place.

    Perhaps I should have said "breed" rather than species - would that have made you understand my question?

    Guy, I see where you are coming from with regards to the farm animals scenerio. I agree that when we are close to something (or someone) we clearly can distinguish it (or them) from others - even though outsiders may not be able to. However, when given pictures of dobermans (as Axe posted above), we cannot [i:2t8eaxx0]immediately[/i:2t8eaxx0] distinguish between the two. Much more frequently than not, when given a picture of two humans, they are instantly recognized as different from one another (though I must say the Asian pics above are compelling).

  • Sorry about the misunderstanding, I was using "species" in the scientific sense. My brain is on auto-pilot from the other thread.

    One important thing to consider is that we humans are much more reliant on sight than most other creatures -- not that we see all that well, but that our other senses are quite underdeveloped. Some birds for example are able to see UV light, and their feathers reflect it in a unique way that only they can see, enabling them to recognize each other where humans wouldn't see any difference at all. If we tried to sniff each other's asses like dogs do, I don't think we'd recognize each other as adeptly as our canine companions, with their much better sense of smell.
  • said:

    said:

    Maybe we really [i:1xh6q9iw]are[/i:1xh6q9iw] objectively easier to differentiate, the whole [i:1xh6q9iw]imago dei[/i:1xh6q9iw] thing (which brings it back into topic for this forum). [/quote:1xh6q9iw]
    That's counterintuitive; if we were all modeled after the same being, we would all look the same.

    As for ants, they likely recognize each other by touch or smell, not visually, much like dogs sniff each other.[/quote:1xh6q9iw]

    Isn't that in essence what you are saying? Our looks are differentiated in slight amounts, but we are essentially the same -- enough so that people from one race group can say with some sense of integrity that "All _____ look the same to me."

    (As an aside, the [i:1xh6q9iw]imago dei [/i:1xh6q9iw]-- image of God -- is not, theologically, a modeling, i.e., physical, as much as it is a representation of attributes.)

  • said:

    (As an aside, the [i:xmd9y9ym]imago dei [/i:xmd9y9ym]-- image of God -- is not, theologically, a modeling, i.e., physical, as much as it is a representation of attributes.)[/quote:xmd9y9ym]
    i.e. Two eyes on the front of the head, an ear on each side, etc?

    Are chimpanzees in imago dei? :P

  • said:

    Sorry about the misunderstanding, I was using "species" in the scientific sense. My brain is on auto-pilot from the other thread.

    One important thing to consider is that we humans are much more reliant on sight than most other creatures -- not that we see all that well, but that our other senses are quite underdeveloped. Some birds for example are able to see UV light, and their feathers reflect it in a unique way that only they can see, enabling them to recognize each other where humans wouldn't see any difference at all. If we tried to sniff each other's asses like dogs do, I don't think we'd recognize each other as adeptly as our canine companions, with their much better sense of smell.[/quote:f19otpbf]

    These are some very good biological bases of behavior and identification in other animals, but what about us? (Here we go again with the open-ended questions :lol: )

    I guess what I am saying is that even though blacks have similar traits in skin pigment, eye color, etc., they are generally distinguishable from one another virtually immediately by [i:f19otpbf]any other human [/i:f19otpbf]- regardless of race. I use blacks as an example, but it seems the same for other races also. In your Italian example, sure you may have certain characteristics that correlate with your race/ethnicity, but as a whole, [i:f19otpbf]any[/i:f19otpbf] 'aware' human can distinguish you from another member of your own race/ethnicity. In other words, even though we identify with a particular race/ethnicity, we remain individually distinct from even those within the same group. I instantly know that Pacino and DiNiro are not the same person simply by looking at them - and I'm not Italian. Why is that? I hope I'm making sense.

  • You're (we're) still members of the same species though. You may not be able to differentiate two members of the same pack of Grey Wolves, but I'm sure the wolves of that pack are able to recognize each other. Show a Wolf a pic of DeNiro and Pacino side by side and I doubt he'd know the difference though.
  • said:

    I instantly know that Pacino and DiNiro are not the same person simply by looking at them - and I'm not Italian. Why is that? I hope I'm making sense.[/quote:2jwya0ou]

    Other than the fact that I have no earthly idea why you are not Italian (not that there's anything wrong with that), I do think that you are making sense. :lol:

  • You've also seen Pacino and DeNiro a thousand times before, You can also tell them apart because Pacino is a shitty actor.
    said:

    In your Italian example, sure you may have certain characteristics that correlate with your race/ethnicity, but as a whole, [i:3t1nmbz2]any[/i:3t1nmbz2] 'aware' human can distinguish you from another member of your own race/ethnicity.[/quote:3t1nmbz2]

    This really is not so.

    John Demjanjuk is a local ukrainian who was deported to Isreal over allegations that he was a deathcamp guard. He maintains that he never worked at a camp.

    One of the problems at his trial was that hundreds of other men from his village at that time looked essentially identical to him. That's what happens when people live in a village for centuries. So to the jews in that camp, Demjanjuk might be mistaken for any of the men from his village.

    Take a population in which genetic backgrounds have extraordinary diversity, african americans. If you spend your whole life amongst norhtern europeans and are mugged by a tall black man, you will remember the features that distinguish him[i:3t1nmbz2] to you[/i:3t1nmbz2], i.e. his dark skin and heighth, maybe the general shape of his face. You ability to distinguish him from any other tall black men in a police line up will be unimpressive.

    See this guy?

    [img:3t1nmbz2]http://www.propublica.org/images/articles/latourette_rep.jpg[/img:3t1nmbz2]

    He is a repub congressman for Ohio. I'll get back to him in a paragraph.

    When I was younger, I had four people on four separate occassion thank me for having stopped and help them with their flat tire or brokendown car. I hadn't done this. I did have a beard, a few extra pounds and shortish brown hair. I was also once mistaken for that repub congressman above who I really don't look much like.

    In casual encounters a white guy with a beard looks like every other white guy with a beard.

  • said:

    You're (we're) still members of the same species though. You may not be able to differentiate two members of the same pack of Grey Wolves, but I'm sure the wolves of that pack are able to recognize each other. Show a Wolf a pic of DeNiro and Pacino side by side and I doubt he'd know the difference though.[/quote:1xuhhwom]

    Point taken.

    Could the same pack of wolves (individually) differentiate between themselves and individual members of other packs of wolves? Better yet, if I show a picture of a wolf to a wolf, would he recognize it as being a wolf? If so, would he be able to distinguish it from any other wolf? Would there be - other than being a wolf - any distinct characteristics individualizing said wolf? When he sees himself in a mirror, does he recognize himself as himself, or simply as a wolf in general? (I'm sure you know the answer to this last question, but it does provide a bit of insight into an animal's awareness in contrast with our own)

  • Zuk, very good examples. Again, I'm not definitively asserting anything as fact - just asking questions. I would posit that perhaps some of your claims, while indeed true, are exceptions rather than the rule. As we know, social sciences just can't give us concrete answers most of the time. There are always deviations from the mean - some rather dramatically so. Often, there are reasons for these deviations, and if taken into account, can be explained. Biologically speaking - like your village example - I haven't a clue. What you claim makes perfect sense.

    (As an aside, and interestingly enough, perhaps the 'white bearded gods' of many ancient religions correlate to one of the phenomena you are describing - a native people's initial encounters with other races/ethnicities.)

    In your examples, perhaps the presence of stressors like elevated emotions distorts one's ability to definitively recognize personal characteristics in individual cases. However, if you casually see two blacks (or asians, or caucasians) on the street, each have distinct characteristics that identify him as different from the other (again, other than identical twins). When we 'look', we generalize. When we 'see', we recognize.

    This doesn't take away from your examples at all. Perhaps if I see you standing next to said congressman it takes me a minute to distinguish you from him. However, I would - through observation and inference - recognize you as a unique being eventually.

    And damnit, Pacino has his moments.
  • said:

    As for ants, they likely recognize each other by touch or smell, not visually, much like dogs sniff each other.[/quote:2xm8e6o6]
    You assume they recognize each other. Do they say, "Oh, hi Bob," or do they just recognize the membership card and say, "Oh, you're a drone in my colony"? I don't think we know. It's possible it's just the latter. Certainly many animals recognize each other. Vultures will mate for life, and if caught cheating, will be attacked by those nearby. But it could be that some species simply cannot distingiush between individuals (and so we shouldn't be so hard on ourselves)!

    said:

    When he sees himself in a mirror, does he recognize himself as himself, or simply as a wolf in general?[/quote:2xm8e6o6]
    Most animals fail the mirror test, not recognizing that the reflection is them. I'm pretty sure that many species don't even recognize that there is another critter on the "other side."

  • said:


    Most animals fail the mirror test, not recognizing that the reflection is them. I'm pretty sure that many species don't even recognize that there is another critter on the "other side."[/quote:2ez1bncm]

    Yeah, and most of the animals that do 'see' something usually feel threatened and mistake their reflection as a hostile. Oddly enough, the animals that have a 'reflective' self-awareness very similar to ours are most primates (even some elephants and dolphins IIRC). The argument then presented is that the ability to recognize oneself in a mirror lends more to intelligence (being able to discern) than awareness. I don't really know the answer.

    Either way, this doesn't really hit on my topic very much, as I am more interested in why we look differently to each other. Why do we have virtually instant identifying [i:2ez1bncm]physical[/i:2ez1bncm] characteristics and they are unique [i:2ez1bncm]only to us[/i:2ez1bncm] (unless there is an identical twin)? Why are we visually distinct and other animals are not (unless we 'know' them as in Guy's example, or carefully observe them as Axe mentioned)?

    Zuk seems to know where I would like to go with this...

  • said:

    Either way, this doesn't really hit on my topic very much, as I am more interested in why we look differently to each other. Why do we have virtually instant identifying [i:3nqe4hyy]physical[/i:3nqe4hyy] characteristics and they are unique [i:3nqe4hyy]only to us[/i:3nqe4hyy] (unless there is an identical twin)? Why are we visually distinct and other animals are not (unless we 'know' them as in Guy's example, or carefully observe them as Axe mentioned)?

    Zuk seems to know where I would like to go with this...[/quote:3nqe4hyy]
    I think you're looking at this from too much of a human perspective, i.e. too visually. We're extremely reliant on our sense of sight -- it's by far our best-developed sense -- but animals have other ways of distinguishing between individuals, ways that go beyond showing them a photo of another. If you were able to identify your friends and family by smell or by touch, it wouldn't matter if they all looked the same, you'd still be able to know who's who.

  • said:


    I think you're looking at this from too much of a human perspective, i.e. too visually. We're extremely reliant on our sense of sight -- it's by far our best-developed sense -- but animals have other ways of distinguishing between individuals, ways that go beyond showing them a photo of another. If you were able to identify your friends and family by smell or by touch, it wouldn't matter if they all looked the same, you'd still be able to know who's who.[/quote:o2eid5kv]

    I am looking at it from a human perspective I confess. :lol:

    I understand what you are saying, however, one cannot deny the obvious differences between [i:o2eid5kv]each[/i:o2eid5kv] human in contrast with the differences of other animals (species, breeds, etc. :P ). We don't need our 'other' senses to distinguish from one another. We are visually individualized unlike all/most other animals. Why is that?

    You do bring up another interesting way to expand the discussion though, because IIRC humans do use other senses to identify when they are blind...

  • said:

    I understand what you are saying, however, one cannot deny the obvious differences between [i:2joyne6o]each[/i:2joyne6o] human in contrast with the differences of other animals (species, breeds, etc. :P ). We don't need our 'other' senses to distinguish from one another. We are visually individualized unlike all/most other animals. Why is that?[/quote:2joyne6o]
    Why are we more reliant on sight than other senses? I suppose we don't have much of a choice... If we recognized each other by touch rather than sight, life would be much more difficult, no? We make do with the tools we have at our disposal.

    said:

    You do bring up another interesting way to expand the discussion though, because IIRC humans do use other senses to identify when they are blind...[/quote:2joyne6o]
    Auditory mostly, since it's the most convenient after sight. Blindness is the most crippling loss of a sense though -- losing your sense of touch for example, would suck, but I'd rather lose that than go blind.

  • said:


    Why are we more reliant on sight than other senses? I suppose we don't have much of a choice... If we recognized each other by touch rather than sight, life would be much more difficult, no? We make do with the tools we have at our disposal.[/quote:2raeprdu]

    I don't know the answer to your question. However, it isn't necessarily where my curiosity lies. I am asking more [i:2raeprdu]why[/i:2raeprdu] each of us is [i:2raeprdu]literally[/i:2raeprdu] distinct from one another? Whether we can 'see' each other or not, this is true (as even though some people are blind, we and they, are still visually different - a fact).

    Go back to the pics of the pigs, the dobermans, etc. on the first page. Look at them and then look at the pic of the humans I posted. Why are we so different and identifiable visually in contrast with every other animal? Sure, if we take a careful survey of each animal, we can recognize some differences, but in humans it is obvious and nearly instantaneous.

    As I said, Zuk's follow-ups are more in line with where my curiosities lie...

  • said:

    As I said, Zuk's follow-ups are more in line with where my curiosities lie...[/quote:1gtzmg5v]
    Actually, I think Zuk was (in his typically understated manner) trying to tell you he disagrees :P

    If Zuk has been approached by people who believe he's someone else, we mustn't look so different, right?

  • said:

    said:

    As I said, Zuk's follow-ups are more in line with where my curiosities lie...[/quote:3o26hu0k]
    Actually, I think Zuk was (in his typically understated manner) trying to tell you he disagrees :P

    If Zuk has been approached by people who believe he's someone else, we mustn't look so different, right?[/quote:3o26hu0k]


    Oh I know he was disagreeing, but he was doing so in the right context. In other words, he was saying that I am not necessarily correct because people who are confined to, or rarely stray from, their own village/township/surroundings, tend to share many of the same visual characteristics. This is a fascinating point, and I am hoping when he gets a second he will elaborate on it.

    I think that what he may be getting at is biological (genetic/evolution). I feel that you probably let me get away with a basic error (species v. breed). Perhaps you should have stuck to your guns because your point is certainly a valid one*. These differences could be explained through genetics if we [i:3o26hu0k]focus on the species as a whole rather than the breed [/i:3o26hu0k](Asian, African, Caucasion, etc.).

    We are nomadic, adaptive, and we interbreed constantly. We're mutts just as if a doberman mates with a poodle. This could explain our unique differences. I don't necessarily buy it as a whole, but it's a good way to further our discussion into a more philosophical one.

    *I didn't realize its validity at the time. I can be slow like that. :lol:

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