Saturday, March 09, 2013

The Bilocated Mind: New Perspectives on Self-Localization and Self-Identification


This is an intriguing article from Frontiers in Human Neuroscience on how the human mind allows for the experience of feeling as though one is occupying two distinct locations at the same time. While this is interesting in terms of consciousness, it helps me understand how some clients who dissociate can feel as though they are in two places at once.

The bilocated mind: new perspectives on self-localization and self-identification

Tiziano Furlanetto1, Cesare Bertone1,2 and Cristina Becchio1*
1Dipartimento di Psicologia, Centro di Scienza Cognitiva, Università di Torino, Torino, Italia
2Centro di Ontologia Teorica e Applicata, Università di Torino, Torino, Italia
Does the human mind allow for self-locating at more than one place at a time? Evidence from neurology, cognitive neuroscience, and experimental psychology suggests that mental bilocation is a complex, but genuine experience, occurring more frequently than commonly thought. In this article, we distinguish between different components of bilocated self-representation: self-localization in two different places at the same time,self-identification with another body, reduplication of first-person perspective. We argue that different forms of mental bilocation may result from the combination of these components. To illustrate this, we discuss evidence of mental bilocation in pathological conditions such as heautoscopy, during immersion in virtual environments, and in everyday life, during social interaction. Finally, we consider the conditions for mental bilocation and speculate on the possible role of mental bilocation in the context of social interaction, suggesting that self-localization at two places at the same time may prove advantageous for the construction of a shared space.

Full Citation: 
Furlanetto T, Bertone C and Becchio C (2013) The bilocated mind: new perspectives on self-localization and self-identification. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7:71. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00071

Introduction


In daily life the self is typically tied to one place at a given point in time and this place coincides with the body. As Husserl puts it: “I do not have the possibility of distancing myself from my body, nor it from me” (Husserl, 1952/1989). Self-experience, however, is not always constrained by the body: empirical research into self-related disorders and full-body illusions demonstrates that the spatial unity between body and self can be temporarily suspended. For seconds, and more seldom minutes, neurological and psychiatric patients may experience themselves to be localized at, and to see from, a location outside their physical body (Blanke and Mohr, 2005). A similar experience might be experimentally induced in healthy subjects using mirrors or simple virtual reality devices (Lenggenhager et al., 2007, 2009).

Where does the self localize during such experiences? Out-side the bodily borders? At the location of the physical body? Does the human mind allow for locating at more than one place at the same time? In this paper we focus on this latter question, and consider the spatial and temporal dynamics of the self-localization process. In particular, we discuss the possibility that the self might be distributed over two spatially distinct places at the same time.

Based on the concept of “minimal phenomenal selfhood” (MPS; Blanke and Metzinger, 2009), our contention is that mental bilocation, i.e., localization of the self at two distinct places at the same time, is not a single perceptual experience but can be broken down into different components: self-localization in two different places at the same time, self-identification with another body, and reduplication of first-person perspective. Different forms of mental bilocation may result from the combination of these components. In this article we will discuss three instances of mental bilocation in which the above mentioned components appear differentially present: heautoscopy, virtual presence, and perspective taking (see Table1). Although mental bilocation in its complete form is only experienced during heautoscopy, incomplete forms of mental bilocation may be experienced during immersion in virtual reality, and in everyday life, during spatial perspective taking.

TABLE 1



Table 1. Instances of mental bilocation in which the three MPS components are differentially present.

Incidences of bilocation are reported in many different cultures at many times. We propose that these reports are rooted in the complex experience of being mentally at two places at the same time, an experience which—we argue—is more frequent than commonly thought and might play an important role in the construction of a shared space.
Read the whole article.
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