THE FACE IN THE MIRROR: The Search for the Origins of Consciousness

Gordon G. Gallup, Author, Julian Keenan, Author, Dean Falk, Author with Gordon Gallup Jr. and Dean Falk. Ecco $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-001279-3

Why do we experience a sense of self? Is it unique to humans? Is it a spiritual force or a natural function of the brain? Keenan, director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory at Montclair State University, reduces these age-old metaphysical problems to scientifically testable questions and, piece by piece, constructs his theory that the self resides in the brain's right hemisphere. He begins by equating recognition of one's own reflection with self-awareness; as coauthor Gallup showed three decades ago, monkeys, humans' distant relatives, fail the mirror self-recognition test while our nearer cousins the chimpanzees pass, suggesting that self-awareness originated far back in the apes' evolutionary lineage. Children first exhibit self-awareness around the age of two, then quickly develop the ability to take the perspective of another person. Essential to primate society, this ability to "attribute mental states to others" is called Theory of Mind and makes cooperation possible, although, as even chimps know, it also confers a talent for deception. Keenan next introduces brain anatomy and modern neuroimaging technology in preparation for an armchair field trip to his laboratory, where he describes his own research and pinpoints structures responsible for self-recognition in the brain's right frontal region. Studies of patients with an impaired sense of self provide further evidence for the significance of this region. Whether Keenan convinces professional colleagues of his theory about the right brain origins of self, this engaging book, written with Gallup and anthropologist Falk, will delight readers curious about the mind and the scientists who study it. B&w illus. (July 11)

Reviewed on: 06/30/2003
Release date: 07/01/2003
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