Introduction It is now thirty years since Julian Jaynes first proposed his model of the bicameral mind, based on a wealth of archeological, anthropological, psychological, and neurological data 1. The present paper provides a brief summary of the bicameral mind model, followed by a critical reappraisal of some theoretical issues in the light of more recent acquisitions on the putative cerebral basis of bicamerality. According to this view, consciousness is a conceptual, metaphor-generated inner world that parallels the actual world and is intimately bound with volition and decision. Homo sapiens, therefore, could not experience consciousness until he developed a language sophisticated enough to produce metaphors and analogical models. Jaynes recognizes that consciousness itself is only a small part of mental activity and is not necessary for sensation or perception, for concept formation, for learning, thinking or even reasoning.

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The metaphor is based on the idea of lateralization of brain function although each half of a normal human brain is constantly communicating with the other through the corpus callosum. The metaphor is not meant to imply that the two halves of the bicameral brain were "cut off" from each other but that the bicameral mind was experienced as a different, non-conscious mental schema wherein volition in the face of novel stimuli was mediated through a linguistic control mechanism and experienced as auditory verbal hallucination.

Bicameral mentality[ edit ] Bicameral mentality would be non-conscious in its inability to reason and articulate about mental contents through meta-reflection, reacting without explicitly realizing and without the meta-reflective ability to give an account of why one did so. The bicameral mind would thus lack metaconsciousness, autobiographical memory, and the capacity for executive "ego functions" such as deliberate mind-wandering and conscious introspection of mental content.

When bicamerality as a method of social control was no longer adaptive in complex civilizations, this mental model was replaced by the conscious mode of thought which, Jaynes argued, is grounded in the acquisition of metaphorical language learned by exposure to narrative practice.

According to Jaynes, ancient people in the bicameral state of mind would have experienced the world in a manner that has some similarities to that of a person with schizophrenia. He took an interdisciplinary approach, drawing data from many different fields. Rather, the bicameral individual was guided by mental commands believed to be issued by external " gods "—commands which were recorded in ancient myths , legends and historical accounts.

This is exemplified not only in the commands given to characters in ancient epics but also the very muses of Greek mythology which "sang" the poems. According to Jaynes, the ancients literally heard muses as the direct source of their music and poetry. Jaynes asserts that in the Iliad and sections of the Old Testament no mention is made of any kind of cognitive processes such as introspection , and there is no apparent indication that the writers were self-aware.

These regions are somewhat dormant in the right brains of most modern humans, but Jaynes noted that some studies show that auditory hallucinations correspond to increased activity in these areas of the brain.

Self-awareness, or consciousness, was the culturally evolved solution to this problem. This necessity of communicating commonly observed phenomena among individuals who shared no common language or cultural upbringing encouraged those communities to become self-aware to survive in a new environment. Thus consciousness, like bicamerality, emerged as a neurological adaptation to social complexity in a changing world.

It was also evidenced in children who could communicate with the gods, but as their neurology was set by language and society they gradually lost that ability. Those who continued prophesying, being bicameral according to Jaynes, could be killed.

Originally published in , [10] it was nominated for the National Book Award in The primary scientific criticism has been that the conclusions drawn by Jaynes had no basis in neuropsychiatric fact.

It does not, however, adequately explain one of the central mysteries of madness: hallucination. Jaynes defines consciousness—in the tradition of Locke and Descartes —as "that which is introspectable". Jaynes draws a sharp distinction between consciousness "introspectable mind-space" and other mental processes such as cognition, learning, sensation, and perception. We are going to have to be speculative, but there is good and bad speculation, and this is not an unparalleled activity in science.

Those scientists who have no taste for this sort of speculative enterprise will just have to stay in the trenches and do without it, while the rest of us risk embarrassing mistakes and have a lot of fun. There is evidence that such change has occurred.

On first reading, Breakdown seemed one of the craziest books ever written, but Jaynes may have been on to something. The Aztecs and Incans did so all the way up to their conquest by the Spanish. It has been found[ citation needed ] that people with damage to the right inferior parietal cortex experience alien hand syndrome , as do people who have had a corpus callosotomy.

Ramachandran , in his book The Emerging Mind, proposes a similar concept, referring to the left cortical hemisphere as an "apologist", and the right cortical hemisphere as a "revolutionary". Morton, formerly of the University of Hawaii , similarly proposed such a concept. Michael Gazzaniga pioneered the split-brain experiments which led him to propose a similar theory called the left brain interpreter.

Neuroscientist Michael Persinger , who co-invented the " God helmet " in the s, believes that his invention may induce mystical experiences by having the separate right hemisphere consciousness intrude into the awareness of the normally-dominant left hemisphere. In popular culture[ edit ].


Bicameralism (psychology)

He was mentored by Frank A. Beach and was a close friend of Edwin G. Jaynes also spent several years in prison for refusing to participate in the second World War. After Yale, Jaynes spent several years in England working as an actor and playwright. Jaynes later returned to the United States and lectured in psychology at Princeton University from to , teaching a popular class on consciousness for much of that time. He was in high demand as a lecturer and was frequently invited to lecture at conferences and as a guest lecturer at other universities. In , he was invited to give the plenary lecture at the Wittgenstein Symposium in Kirchberg, Austria.


Consciousness and the Voices of the Mind



Julian Jaynes




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