The Body, Its Emotions, the Self, and Consciousness

Graham W. Boyd
2012 Perspectives in biology and medicine  
This article proposes a means for better understanding the self and consciousness. Data indicate that the basic "emotional brain" continually computes potential survival risk against reward to rank consequent "emotion scores" for all sensory inputs. These scores compete to yield winner-takes-all outcomes that determine the choice of attention or action. This mechanism prevails regardless of whether the competing options gain their emotion scores through a rational or an intuitive pathway. There
more » ... tive pathway. There is no need to postulate any homunculus or inner self in control of such choice; indeed, our belief in a first-person self in overall control is wrong.The self is a passive construct arising from each individual's social development, where language acquisition vastly heightens communication and awareness not only outwardly, but also inwardly, as if to a controlling "inner I." However, when society comes to hold the maturing being accountable for his or her actions, the brain must respond, and it does so in the only way it can, by deeming that this passive, inner self-construct act as if it were the active self in charge. Consciousness emerges when the language-based output of the higher brain is referred for ownership to this artificial self-construct. Recently I was trying to explain to an intelligent woman the problem of trying to understand how it is we perceive anything at all, and I was not having any success. She could not see why there was a problem. Finally in despair I asked her how she herself thought she saw the world. She replied that she probably had somewhere in her head something like a little television set. "So who," I asked "is looking at it?" She now saw the problem immediately. -F. H. Crick (1979)
doi:10.1353/pbm.2012.0031 pmid:23179030 fatcat:rln5po6iqvgffczqtkpa3vltq4