Morals: Dilemma for the Anesthetised Mind (Individual & Society Book 2)

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What about plants? Plants do react albeit very slowly to things that harm it. Some trees, when attacked by caterpillars , release chemicals that make them less delicious, and possibly also to warn other trees. One way to think about the difference is to imagine that you have your arm anesthetised, and you watch as something heavy falls on it, causing a bruise. This suggests that there is more to feeling pain than the mere belief that you are being harmed. And each kind of pain can arise with different intensities and durations depending on the circumstances.

But between the obvious case of humans, who certainly experience pain, and trees, which almost certainly do not, we have plenty of organisms to scratch our heads about. Many creatures—like fish—react as though they are in pain, but are they really, or are they merely executing a response to nociception, like the tree? For example, it appears that the anterior cingulate cortex ACC is important for the feeling of pain in humans, and, we assume, all mammals.

But birds use a different brain area for what appears to be the same function : the corticoidea dorsolateralis. How we judge whether a species has its own system for creating subjective feelings of pain, different from ours, is not straightforward. In the face of this uncertainty, experimental ethics boards have to use somewhat blunt instruments to draw a line between conscious and unconscious creatures. For any science that deals with living things, from biology to economics, we have ethical concerns. For example, during some riots, antisocial behavior can be viewed as a normative response to injustice or oppression.

In other words, if the group situation is associated with more prosocial norms, deindividuation can actually increase these behaviors, and therefore does not inevitably lead to antisocial conduct. Building on these findings, researchers have developed more contemporary accounts of deindividuation and rioting. One particularly important approach has been the social identity model of deindividuation effects or SIDE model , developed by Reicher, Spears, and Postmes This perspective argues that being in a deindividuated state can actually reinforce group salience and conformity to specific group norms in the current situation.

According to this model, deindividuation does not, then, lead to a loss of identity per se. Indeed, as Fogelson concluded in his analysis of rioting in the United States in the s, restraint and selectivity, as opposed to mindless and indiscriminate violence, were among the most crucial features of the riots. Private self-consciousness refers to the tendency to introspect about our inner thoughts and feelings.

Public self-consciousness , in contrast, refers to the tendency to focus on our outer public image and to be particularly aware of the extent to which we are meeting the standards set by others. However, the presence of the mirror had no effect on college students from Japan.

In general, though, we all experience heightened moments of self-awareness from time to time. Sometimes when we make these comparisons, we realize that we are not currently measuring up.

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Simply put, the more self-aware we are in a given situation, the more pain we feel when we are not living up to our ideals. In these cases, we may realign our current state to be closer to our ideals, or shift our ideals to be closer to our current state, both of which will help reduce our sense of dissonance. Another potential response to feelings of self-discrepancy is to try to reduce the state of self-awareness that gave rise to these feelings by focusing on other things. For example, Moskalenko and Heine found that people who are given false negative feedback about their performance on an intelligence test, which presumably lead them to feel discrepant from their internal performance standards about such tasks, subsequently focused significantly more on a video playing in a room than those given positive feedback.

There are certain situations, however, where these common dissonance-reduction strategies may not be realistic options to pursue. For instance, the person who has become addicted to an illegal substance may choose to focus on healthy eating and exercise regimes instead as a way of reducing the dissonance created by the drug use. The key findings were that those who had engaged in the self-affirmation condition and were then exposed to a threatening hypothesis showed greater tendencies than those in the non-affirming group to seek out evidence confirming their own views, and to detect illusory correlations in support of these positions.

Still another option to pursue when we feel that our current self is not matching up to our ideal self is to seek out opportunities to get closer to our ideal selves. One method of doing this can be in online environments. They also rated their avatars as more similar to their ideal selves than they themselves were. The authors of this study concluded that these online environments allow players to explore their ideal selves, freed from the constraints of the physical world.

There are also emerging findings exploring the role of self-awareness and self-affirmation in relation to behaviors on social networking sites. Gonzales and Hancock conducted an experiment showing that individuals became more self-aware after viewing and updating their Facebook profiles, and in turn reported higher self-esteem than participants assigned to an offline, control condition.

The increased self-awareness that can come from Facebook activity may not always have beneficial effects, however. Perhaps sometimes we can have too much self-awareness and focus to the detriment of our abilities to understand others. Toma and Hancock investigated the role of self-affirmation in Facebook usage and found that users viewed their profiles in self-affirming ways, which enhanced their self-worth.


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They were also more likely to look at their Facebook profiles after receiving threats to their self-concept, doing so in an attempt to use self-affirmation to restore their self-esteem. It seems, then, that the dynamics of self-awareness and affirmation are quite similar in our online and offline behaviors. Having reviewed some important theories and findings in relation to self-discrepancy and affirmation, we should now turn our attention to diversity.

Once again, as with many other aspects of the self-concept, we find that there are important cultural differences. For instance, Heine and Lehman tested participants from a more individualistic nation Canada and a more collectivistic one Japan in a situation where they took a personality test and then received bogus positive or negative feedback.

They were then asked to rate the desirability of 10 music CDs. Subsequently, they were offered the choice of taking home either their fifth- or sixth-ranked CD, and then required to re-rate the 10 CDs. The critical finding was that the Canadians overall rated their chosen CD higher and their unchosen one lower the second time around, mirroring classic findings on dissonance reduction, whereas the Japanese participants did not.

Crucially, though, the Canadian participants who had been given positive feedback about their personalities in other words, had been given self-affirming evidence in an unrelated domain did not feel the need to pursue this dissonance reduction strategy. In contrast, the Japanese did not significantly adjust their ratings in response to either positive or negative feedback from the personality test. Once more, these findings make sense if we consider that the pressure to avoid self-discrepant feelings will tend to be higher in individualistic cultures, where people are expected to be more cross-situationally consistent in their behaviors.

Those from collectivistic cultures, however, are more accustomed to shifting their behaviors to fit the needs of the ingroup and the situation, and so are less troubled by such seeming inconsistencies. Although the self-concept is the most important of all our schemas, and although people particularly those high in self-consciousness are aware of their self and how they are seen by others, this does not mean that people are always thinking about themselves.

This may be welcome news, for example, when we find ourselves wincing over an embarrassing comment we made during a group conversation. It may well be that no one else paid nearly as much attention to it as we did! People also often mistakenly believe that their internal states show to others more than they really do. One at a time, each student stood up in front of the others and answered a question that the researcher had written on a card e. After each round, the students who had not been asked to lie indicated which of the students they thought had actually lied in that round, and the liar was asked to estimate the number of other students who would correctly guess who had been the liar.

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The Moral Importance of Understanding Consciousness

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Does the Golem Feel Pain? Moral Instincts and Ethical Dilemmas Concerning Suffering and the Brain

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Self-Complexity and Self-Concept Clarity

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