When the self represents the other: A new cognitive neuroscience view on psychological identification

Consciousness and Cognition 12 (4):577-596 (2003)

Abstract

There is converging evidence from developmental and cognitive psychology, as well as from neuroscience, to suggest that the self is both special and social, and that self-other interaction is the driving force behind self-development. We review experimental findings which demonstrate that human infants are motivated for social interactions and suggest that the development of an awareness of other minds is rooted in the implicit notion that others are like the self. We then marshal evidence from functional neuroimaging explorations of the neurophysiological substrate of shared representations between the self and others, using various ecological paradigms such as mentally representing one's own actions versus others' actions, watching the actions executed by others, imitating the others' actions versus being imitated by others. We suggest that within this shared neural network the inferior parietal cortex and the prefrontal cortex in the right hemisphere play a special role in the essential ability to distinguish the self from others, and in the way the self represents the other. Interestingly, the right hemisphere develops its functions earlier than the left

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