Learning what it means to be human

I am slowly learning what it means to be human.

I am slowly learning how to forgive the past. How to accept that sometimes beautiful things end, that sometimes the timing isn’t right, that sometimes the messiness of life gets in the way.

I am slowly learning that endings aren’t something to be upset about, but rather, I am slowly learning how to appreciate how damn lucky I was to experience something real and hopeful and light in a world that sometimes fails to be soft.

I am slowly learning how to be alone. I am slowly learning how to wake up in the middle of the bed. How to make just one cup of coffee in the mornings. How to hold my own heart, how to take up my own space. I am slowly learning how to stop filling voids with other human beings, and instead, I am slowly learning how to confront the void itself. How to heal it.

I am slowly learning what it means to be human. What it means to make mistakes and learn from them. What it means to be both happy and sad at the same time. I am slowly learning how to do the damn work. How to stop running from what is heavy and uncomfortable in my life. How to take the easy route less and less. How to grow myself, how to be a better person.

But most of all, I am slowly learning how to just be, in this moment. How to exist. How to understand that I cannot control life, that I can only experience it in both its light and its dark stages.

I am slowly learning how to laugh and cry and feel through it all, how to welcome the confusion and the joy that comes with loving, and living, and breaking. I am slowly learning how to accept where I am.

I am slowly learning how to simply believe in the person I am becoming. Learning What it Means to Be Human

Levels of Human Learning

Human learning is a process of acquiring knowledge. Our behavior, skills, values and ethics are acquired when we process information through our minds and learn.

Human learning may occur as part of education, personal development or any other informal/formal training. Children learn while they play, experiment, and interact. However, the process of learning is a continuous process.

We constantly learn, unlearn and relearn through our experiences. To express ideas, to inform people, to communicate, to create etc we need to learn.

Learning What it Means to Be Human It is said that there are four levels of learning. Unconscious Incompetence is a stage where we don’t know what we don’t know. This means that we are not even aware of certain things in this universe. We have no awareness of the existence of certain kind of knowledge. The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize this.

The second level is conscious Incompetence. This means we know what we don’t know. There are certain things which exist and which we are aware of however, we consciously know for a fact that we don’t know it.

Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize this. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.

Example: a person knows that he or she does not know how to drive.

The third level of learning is conscious competence. Here individuals are aware of the learning that has taken place. We know what we know. The individual understands or knows how to do something.

Execution of the skill plays an important part in this learning process. It requires a lot of concentration.

Example: An individual knows for a fact that he or she can cook and when they do that, they must perform the process with concentration.

The fourth level of the learning process is unconscious competence. This means that we don’t know what we know.

Sometimes, we as individuals have had so much practice with a particular skill that it almost becomes our second nature. And this we can perform with utmost ease.

As a result, the skill can be performed while doing other things as well. These skills may be taught to other individuals as well, depending upon how and when it was learned.

Apart from the process of human learning and the stages of human learning, spirituality and being conscious of your inner self is also learning in itself. Human beings must learn and be aware of their soul and must identify peace within themselves.

This is a continuous learning process. Practicing meditation helps you to learn about your feelings, emotions, and other inner attributes. Even Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs talks about the last stage of need which is Self Actualization.

According to him, one reaches that stage after all basic; safety and luxury needs are fulfilled. Human learning, above all, has to do with adaptive behavior. With time, humans need to learn, unlearn and relearn to become their perceived ideal self.

However, realizing the inner self is the biggest learning for most humans.

Learning is part of human nature. Teaching others is another part of human nature?

University of Basrah

Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT

Valahia University of Târgoviste

University of Basrah

Saeed Naif Turki Al Rashid

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University of Anbar

University of Saskatchewan

Chernivtsi National University

Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT

Prasanna Ayurvedic Medical College

Mehr Chand Mahajan DAV College For Women Chandigarh

University of Basrah

Universiti Sains Malaysia

Ashford University

“Dunarea de Jos” University of Galati

Fielding Graduate University

Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia

University of Basrah

University of Basrah

Cebu Normal University

Siddaganga Institute of Technology

Lesa M. Collins-Scheifele

The Lost Ark, Inc.

Universitas Pasundan

Xosé Manuel Souto González

University of Valencia

University of Basrah

University of Southern Queensland 

Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia

University of Basrah

What does it mean to be human?

What does it mean to be human? It’s a simple question, just a few short words, but it unwraps the bundle of complexity, contradictions, and mystery that is a human life.

It’s a question we have been asking for thousands of years. Priests and poets, philosophers and politicians, scientists and artists have all sought to answer this ultimate puzzle, but all fell short, never able to fully capture the vastness of the human experience.

Some have come closer than others.

Charles Darwin had one of the greatest insights into the human condition that any of our species has had, changing thousands of years' of thought at the stroke of a pen, yet he had nothing to say about how we actually experience being human.

It would be another 50 years before an Austrian doctor began to talk about the hidden forces of the subconscious mind, but even Sigmund Freud couldn’t provide an adequate explanation for consciousness.

In fact, to date, no-one has come close to describing the sheer magnificent wonder of being alive.

The electric surge we feel when we kiss a lover, the deep stirring of the soul when we listen to Mozart’s Requiem, and the full flowing joy of laughing uncontrollably with our closest friends as we share a joke.

Being Human is a major new season launching on BBC Earth that aims to take us as closer to understanding who we are. Why do we behave the way we do? How do we live better? How did we get to now? What is our future?

Over the course of a year, we will take you by the hand and dive into these questions, exploring all corners of humanity with wide-eyed curiosity.

We will look deep into the mind at what drives our behaviour, meet extraordinary humans who have unlocked the secrets of a long and healthy life, take a trip through 2000 years of civilisation, journey into the human body on our path to adulthood as we go from baby to baby-maker, experience the drama of extraordinary human rituals that hope to cheat death, and watch happens to our bodies in the hours, days, and months after we die.

We have brilliant series from world class programme makers coming up, full of incredible ideas at the leading edge of scientific thought. We want to make you think, but we also want to make you feel. Being Human will be a celebration of the human race. We want to make the hairs on the back of the neck stand up at the improbable good fortune of our own existence. 

So what is our story? Let’s start with the facts. We are one species of primate that emerged from the dry savannahs of East Africa just over 100,000 years ago and began a migration that continues to today.

We weren’t the strongest animal, but we had an unusually large brain and held ourselves upright, giving us a high vantage to scan the distant horizon for enemies, and the freedom to use our hands for other purposes. Over time we began to fashion tools. These were primitive, but could tear through skin and muscle and gave us an advantage as we prowled our wild habitat for prey.

We might have continued our short life of hunting, savagery, and brutishness right through to today, but for one important development – language.

Other animals could communicate, but we evolved astonishing vocal ability, able to create sounds that represented not just objects, but also concepts. We learned how to express ideas. We could speak of danger, hope, and love.

We became storytellers, able to weave together common narratives about who we are and how we should live. From this point on the pace of change was electrifying.

Twelve thousand years ago, we learned how to domesticate plants and other animals for food, and were able to settle in one place. We became a social animal, building complex communities that become kingdoms, learning to trade with each other using a concept called money.

By 2500 years ago, a small group of humans in Southern Europe and the Middle East started to ask big questions about who we were.

What is the best way to live? What is a good life? What does it mean to be human? How we responded to these questions is how we built our civilisation, art, and philosophy.

Five hundred years ago, the scientific revolution began, allowing us to harness the resources of our planet to live longer and more productive lives.

When the digital revolution began only 50 years ago, the world shrank. We became a global village, our hopes and dreams converted into an infinite stream of ones and zeroes echoing throughout cyberspace. Today, we stand astride the world as a god, with both the power to destroy our own planet and to create life.

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Any process in an organism in which a relatively long-lasting adaptive behavioral change occurs as the result of experience
“Learn” and “Learned” redirect here. For other uses, see Learn (disambiguation) and Learned (disambiguation).


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Children learning in a rural school in Bangladesh.

Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences.[1] The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals, and some machines; there is also evidence for some kind of learning in certain plants.[2] Some learning is immediate, induced by a single event (e.g. being burned by a hot stove), but much skill and knowledge accumulates from repeated experiences. The changes induced by learning often last a lifetime, and it is hard to distinguish learned material that seems to be “lost” from that which cannot be retrieved.[3]

Human learning starts at birth (it might even start before[4]) and continues until death as a consequence of ongoing interactions between people and their environment. The nature and processes involved in learning are studied in many fields, including educational psychology, neuropsychology, experimental psychology, and pedagogy.

Research in such fields has led to the identification of various sorts of learning. For example, learning may occur as a result of habituation, or classical conditioning, operant conditioning or as a result of more complex activities such as play, seen only in relatively intelligent animals.[5][6] Learning may occur consciously or without conscious awareness.

Learning that an aversive event can't be avoided nor escaped may result in a condition called learned helplessness.

[7] There is evidence for human behavioral learning prenatally, in which habituation has been observed as early as 32 weeks into gestation, indicating that the central nervous system is sufficiently developed and primed for learning and memory to occur very early on in development.[8]

Play has been approached by several theorists as the first form of learning.[citation needed] Children experiment with the world, learn the rules, and learn to interact through play.

Lev Vygotsky agrees that play is pivotal for children's development, since they make meaning of their environment through playing educational games.

For Vygotsky, however, play is the first form of learning language and communication and the stage where a child begins to understand rules and symbols.[9]


See also: Learning styles and Machine learning § Types of problems and tasks

Non-associative learning

Non-associative learning refers to “a relatively permanent change in the strength of response to a single stimulus due to repeated exposure to that stimulus.”[10] This definition exempt the changes caused by sensory adaptation, fatigue, or injury.[11]

Non-associative learning can be divided into habituation and sensitization.


Main article: Habituation

Habituation is an example of non-associative learning in which one or more components of an innate response (e.g., response probability, response duration) to a stimulus diminishes when the stimulus is repeated. Thus, habituation must be distinguished from extinction, which is an associative process.

In operant extinction, for example, a response declines because it is no longer followed by a reward. An example of habituation can be seen in small song birds—if a stuffed owl (or similar predator) is put into the cage, the birds initially react to it as though it were a real predator. Soon the birds react less, showing habituation.

If another stuffed owl is introduced (or the same one removed and re-introduced), the birds react to it again as though it were a predator, demonstrating that it is only a very specific stimulus that is habituated to (namely, one particular unmoving owl in one place).

The habituation process is faster for stimuli that occur at a high rather than for stimuli that occur at a low rate as well as for the weak and strong stimuli, respectively.

[12] Habituation has been shown in essentially every species of animal, as well as the sensitive plant Mimosa pudica[13] and the large protozoan Stentor coeruleus.[14] This concept acts in direct opposition to sensitization.[12]


Main article: Sensitization

Sensitization is an example of non-associative learning in which the progressive amplification of a response follows repeated administrations of a stimulus (Bell et al., 1995).[citation needed

Being Human ~ Lesson Overview | The Human Spark | PBS

  • To view a printer-friendly version of this lesson, click here: (PDF) (RTF)
  • Grade Levels: 5-8
  • Time Allotment: Two 45-minute class periods
See also:  Passive voice

Overview: In this lesson, students view and discuss video segments from the PBS program The Human Spark, as they learn about what distinguishes human beings from other species. In the Introductory Activity, students list similarities and differences between human beings and other species.  In Learning Activity 1, students explore how human thought differs from that of chimpanzees and other species. In Learning Activity 2, students explore a variety of traits/abilities (including language & symbols, social life and the ability to walk upright) and learn how they have evolved in humans over millions of years and how these traits/abilities distinguish humans from other animals. In the Culminating Activity, students compose essays about what makes humans unique.

  1. Subject Matter: Science; Psychology
  2. Learning Objectives:
  3. Students will be able to:
  • Compare and contrast human traits/abilities with those of other species.
  • Describe how human thinking differs from that of other species.
  • Explain one specific human trait/ability and describe how it has evolved over time.
  • Discuss at least four ways in which humans differ from other species.
  • Standards:
  • National Science Education Standards
  • Grades 5-8:
    Content Standard C: Life ScienceAs a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop understanding of:
  • Regulation and Behavior
    • All organisms must be able to obtain and use resources, grow, reproduce, and maintain stable internal conditions while living in a constantly changing external environment.
    • Regulation of an organism’s internal environment involves sensing the internal environment and changing physiological activities to keep conditions within the range required to survive.
    • Behavior is one kind of response an organism can make to an internal or environmental stimulus. A behavioral response requires coordination and communication at many levels, including cells, organ systems, and whole organisms. Behavioral response is a set of actions determined in part by heredity and in part from experience.
    • An organism’s behavior evolves through adaptation to its environment. How a species moves, obtains food, reproduces, and responds to danger are based in the species’ evolutionary history.
  • Diversity and Adaptations of Organisms
    • Millions of species of animals, plants, and microorganisms are alive today. Although different species might look dissimilar, the unity among organisms becomes apparent from an analysis of internal structures, the similarity of their chemical processes, and the evidence of common ancestry.
    • Biological evolution accounts for the diversity of species developed through gradual processes over many generations. Species acquire many of their unique characteristics through biological adaptation, which involves the selection of naturally occurring variations in populations. Biological adaptations include changes in structures, behaviors, or physiology that enhance survival and reproductive success in a particular environment.
    • Extinction of a species occurs when the environment changes and the adaptive characteristics of a species are insufficient to allow its survival. Fossils indicate that many organisms that lived long ago are extinct. Extinction of species is common; most of the species that have lived on the earth no longer exist.

National Standards for Psychology Curricula

Standard Area IVC: Thinking and Language

  • CONTENT STANDARD IVC-1: Basic elements comprising thought
    Students are able to (performance standards):

    • IVC-1.1 Define thinking as a mental process involved in the manipulation and understanding of information. Students may indicate this by (performance indicators): a. Identifying mental images and verbal symbols as elements that comprise thinking.
  • CONTENT STANDARD IVC-4: Theories and developmental stages of language acquisition Students are able to (performance standards):
    • IVC-4.3 Speculate on whether animals acquire and use language. Students may indicate this by (performance indicators): b.  Relating conclusions drawn from early attempts to teach language to primates; c.  Discussing contemporary views on whether animals can acquire language.

Media Resources

The Human Spark, selected segments

  • Beyond the Present
    A look at humans’ unique ability to reflect upon events that have happened in the past and think about things that could possibly happen in the future.
  1. An overview of how insight and imagination distinguish humans from others.
  2. Additional segments which students can use in their research for Learning Activity 2:
  3. A brief look at the cooperative and social nature of humans.
  4. A look at the difference between human language and other species’ communication systems.
  • The Art Spark
    An exploration of early cave art and what it tells us about our ancestors.


What does it mean to be human?

This Smithsonian Institution website explores what it means to be human and provides a variety of information, photographs and web interactives. The site features a “human characteristics” section, which can be used in Learning Activity 2. This section focuses on human characteristics which have evolved over the past 6 million years: http://humanorigins.si.edu/human-characteristics.


For the class:

  • Computers with internet access
  • Computer, projection screen and speakers (for class viewing of online/downloaded video segments)
  • Before the Lesson
  • Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:
  • Preview all of the video segments and websites used in the lesson.
  • Download the video clips used in the lesson to your classroom computer(s) or prepare to watch them using your classroom’s Internet connection.

Bookmark all websites which you plan to use in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Using a social bookmarking tool such as delicious or diigo (or an online bookmarking utility such as portaportal) will allow you to save the links in one location.

Proceed to Lesson Activities.

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