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The question of when consciousness emerges in human infancy has long been a challenge for psychologists and philosophers. In response to this ongoing debate, academics from the University of Birmingham have proposed a new approach to identify when babies become conscious. Dr. Henry Taylor, an Associate Professor of Philosophy, and Andrew Bremner, a Professor of Developmental Psychology, suggest that researchers should identify markers of consciousness in adults and then measure when babies start to exhibit larger numbers of these markers during development. This approach aims to overcome the difficulty of establishing when infants become conscious, as babies cannot communicate their experiences like adults can.

The proposed approach involves looking for specific behaviors or patterns of brain activation that are associated with consciousness in adults. By identifying when these behaviors or activations emerge in babies, researchers can infer when consciousness begins to develop in infants. This method relies on finding a range of markers of consciousness that appear in different stages of development, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of when consciousness emerges. The researchers emphasize the importance of considering various markers, as different markers may suggest different ages for the onset of consciousness. By examining a broad selection of markers, they believe they can better answer the age-old question of when consciousness emerges in human infants.

In a recent article, Professor Tim Bayne and colleagues suggested four specific markers of consciousness, some of which are present in the late stages of gestation and others in early infancy. However, Professor Bremner and Dr. Taylor argue that this overlooks other markers that have been identified in previous research. These markers include behaviors such as pointing, intentional control, and explicit memory, which may suggest a different age for the emergence of consciousness. The researchers point out that the complexity of various markers makes it challenging to determine a single age at which consciousness emerges, as some markers may appear at different points in early and late development.

Dr. Taylor highlights the difficulty of pinpointing the exact age at which consciousness emerges, as different markers may point to different times during development. While some markers suggest consciousness emerges in the third trimester of pregnancy or early infancy, others indicate it may be closer to one year old or even 3-4 years old. The researchers stress the importance of considering a broad selection of markers and developmental models to gain a comprehensive understanding of when consciousness arises in human infants. They suggest that clustering these markers may provide a better insight into the complex process of consciousness emergence, though they caution that the answer may not be a simple one.

In conclusion, Professor Bremner and Dr. Taylor propose a broad approach to identifying markers of consciousness in infants, considering those that emerge in both early and late development stages. They recommend exploring a range of developmental models to account for the diverse markers that may indicate the onset of consciousness. By gathering a comprehensive selection of markers and considering different developmental trajectories, the researchers hope to shed light on the age-old question of when consciousness emerges in human infancy. While the answer may be complex and multi-faceted, they believe that this new approach offers a promising step towards unraveling the mysteries of infant consciousness.

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