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 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.


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pp. 362-377
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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