I wonder whether consciousness evolved because it helped higher animals (and people in particular) to hone skills. I was thinking about whistling and other complex learned skills and it occurred to me that it was the ability to think of our individual body parts as tools and objects that we can control (but not precisely) that allowed the faster learning to take place. This is perhaps the flip-side of Cartesian duality - the body came first and the illusion of the mind developed as a way to gain advantage.
And perhaps all the elements of consciousness work to permit faster learning (deferred gratification, distinct episodic memory, etc.)?
I'm sure there are already tons of books about this but I had not thought of consciousness (and self-awareness, especially of body parts) as an adaptation to permit learning until this morning (when wondering if a dog could be taught to spit).