Body, Brain, and Behavior: The Neuroanthropology of the Body Image

Anthropology of Consciousness 8 (2-3):49-68 (1997)
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The author presents a biogenetic structural theory of the body image in human beings. The theory accounts for both the universal principles and the variance in body image cross‐culturally. All humans develop a neurocognitive model of their body which combines information about the body obtained via both the internal and external sensory systems. Their experience of themselves is mediated in part by this model. The initial model of the body is "hard‐wired" and already present and active in the cognitively and perceptually competent pre‐ and perinatal human being, and develops as a consequence of both genetically imposed and socioculturally influenced processes of growth. The role of behavior in this process is shown to be the control of perception such that the body image experienced in perception approximates that anticipated by the cognized self. The theory accounts for the use of the body‐assymbol and the distortion of the body image for communicative purposes. The neurophysiology of imagery is reviewed and suggestions are made for possible clinical methods that might be used to effect therapeutic changes in pathological body imagery.



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