Discussion Forum

Is there a test for consciousness?

I mean, we can know that we ourselves are conscious, but how do we know that any other individual is conscious?

Or to put it another way, you know that you are conscious, but how do you know that anyone else is conscious?
Zero – The Turing Test does not test for consciousness… it tries to test whether a computer program can pass itself off as a human being. But such a test could be passed without consciousness.

PSYCHLO – You failed to suggest a test for consciousness in an other.
wilma m – You say this but how does one test for consciousness?
Lenoire – no that would only test that the eyes are responding to light… still no varification of consciousness. I think a sleep walker would fly through your test and still not be conscious.
scorpius5 – How can we test for consciousness? How can we know if someone/something is conscious? You did not answer the question.
small – nope, your answer is not correct. Stimulus response does not equal consciousness.
Philo – where in your response is an answer to my question? What is the test for consciousness? If you don’t know how consciousness can be tested for, just say you don’t know of such a test.
Alan – thanks for your answer, but it merely confirms my suspicion that there is no way to tell if consciousness is actually going on in the mind of anyone else.

10 Comments

  • oh my god…by ….jeez…i dunno….perhaps…..someone looking you in the eye and SPEAKING?! are we even speaking the same language? do you mean conscious as the dictionary defines it and has been the classical definition since the word began currency in the 5th century or as has been defined in the last five hours?

  • Great question. As a computer programmer I am very aware of the Turing Test, but even that is an easy test to foil and has nothing to do with consciousness.

    One of the problems that exists with your question is that consciousness is not ONE thing. It is actually several processes that occur in the brain to produce what we call the mind or consciousness. One of the curious things about consciousness is that its components are seamlessly joined to appear monolithic. That is an illusion.

    There are at least five components that I have found and studied in consciousness. They include: “The Observer”, the creative process, the self/ego/persona, the libido, the area of habitual behavior. There may be many more subprocesses that support these components. Some people have well developed egos and weak creative processes, some are just the opposite. I’m not sure about what sort of minimalist form these components could assume. So a “test” would include the following parts:

    1. A test of very basic observations and response. While this would include reflexes, the test would need to show that the person is aware of their surroundings.
    2. A test of creativity to a variety of problems, including:
    a. some deductive logic problem
    b. some inductive logic problem
    c. some artistic problem
    d. some non-recursive problem
    3. A test of the self/ego/persona, including:
    a. recognization of one’s self
    b. self preservation skills
    c. unique presentation of the self
    d. ability to censor and control
    4. A test of libido, including:
    a. a test for sexual desire
    b. a test for accomplishing sexual goals
    5. A test for habitual and traditional behavior, including:
    a. a test for social, cultural, and traditional awareness
    b. a test for a desire for social membership in a group.

    There could very well be other tests that would need to be done to be able to confirm all aspects of consciousness are present.

    After I wrote the above, I realized that I’m talking about a normal, sane person. The study of the mentally ills can also give us tests that can be used.

    Phil, having a test for consciousness, whatever it is, is not the same thing as testing for the existence for something that is undefined. You are going around in a sophistic circle when you reject legitimate tests that I described by saying that none of them prove that consciousness exists. Your objection is no more valid than saying that a test for the existence of a human cannot exist because we don’t really know what it means to be a human.

    When I teach science and I’m talking about the atom, I give the tests for the existence of the atom, both direct and indirect proofs. But I’m not saying what an atoms is, or what a proton is, or what a quark is. We humans are never trying to know some secret essence of reality, we only need to develop reasonable models of reality, knowing full well that the models are OF reality and not reality itself. So you are making a philosophical error called reification, where you are confusing reality with our models by complaining that we still don’t know if consciousness exists in others. It is our models of consciousness that are being tested. We don’t need to know what consciousness IS to test its attributes and in testing its attributes we show its existence. Things that don’t exist don’t have attributes.

  • Keep in mind that Jesus and Buddha were so different from ordinary that folks didn’t ask “Who are you?, they asked “What are you? Buddha answered “I’m awake.” By that measure very few of us are conscious. We’re still dreaming. The only measure of consciousness on record is the zen experience of waking up, of enlightenment.

    I can tell you first hand that those who are awake (to some degree) can instantly recognize others who also are (and aren’t). Anyone can amuse others by acting stupid. Do you think someone mentally retarded could successfully pass as a mathematician or physicist among mathematicians and physicists? The more conscious you are, the more subtle the signs of consciousness become, but they are nonetheless unmistakable.

    We should keep in mind that our materialist culture has only a couple of words for states of consciousness; ancient India had more than 20, perhaps a single word to distinguish “before I’ve had my morning coffee” from “after….” Or differences much more subtle and profound.

  • Even when someone is unconscious, the brain and the heart are working which signify life. Consciousness is signified by the five senses…. touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell…. these five senses cause perception while someone is conscious and perception brings a response. These five senses need to be tested for response and if even one of them is working, the consciousness is proved.

    An interesting out of box thought is that suppose one consciously decides not to respond to any perception….. there is perhaps a limit for anyone to be able to do that, that is refuse to respond…. if the perception is too strong, there would be involuntary response or what we call reflex action.

  • some are more conscious than others, however conscious a conscience can be though, is potentially infinite, or immeasurable. (I guess the ultimate TEST,is how they react to certain stimuli.)

  • Every human beings has consciousness whether they are moving or just sitting down. One may not be concern of what will hit him because he is conscious of something else. Even the insane has consciousness . only it is insane consciousness. you will be unconsious only when you are sleeping or knock down on the head.

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