Consciousness and the Social Brain

Overview


What is consciousness and how can a brain, a mere collection of neurons, create it? In Consciousness and the Social Brain, Princeton neuroscientist Michael Graziano lays out an audacious new theory to account for the deepest mystery of them all. The human brain has evolved a complex circuitry that allows it to be socially intelligent. This social machinery has only just begun to be studied in detail. One function of this circuitry is to attribute awareness to others: to compute that person Y is aware of thing X....
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Consciousness and the Social Brain

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Overview


What is consciousness and how can a brain, a mere collection of neurons, create it? In Consciousness and the Social Brain, Princeton neuroscientist Michael Graziano lays out an audacious new theory to account for the deepest mystery of them all. The human brain has evolved a complex circuitry that allows it to be socially intelligent. This social machinery has only just begun to be studied in detail. One function of this circuitry is to attribute awareness to others: to compute that person Y is aware of thing X. In Graziano's theory, the machinery that attributes awareness to others also attributes it to oneself. Damage that machinery and you disrupt your own awareness. Graziano discusses the science, the evidence, the philosophy, and the surprising implications of this new theory.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Theories of consciousness are a dime a dozen. This one is different. Here is what makes Graziano's central idea distinctive: it makes sense - good scientific and logical sense. It fits with what we know about brain anatomy and physiology. It accounts for a wide swath of psychological data and clinical data. It does not peddle the preposterous nor rely on semantic mumbo jumbo. It has no gigantic holes it has to pretend not to notice. It connects to other reasonable approaches deftly and productively. It is masterfully clear. It is surprising in places, and probably wrong in some places, as any rich and deep theory inevitably is. The central idea, however, is quite probably right, or very close to. Almost invariably I find that I hurl books on consciousness to the floor midway through. Not this one."
Patricia S. Churchland, PhD, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego

"Orchestrating how our personal awareness jives with the stuff we think about has eluded us all. Graziano has a plausible and rich theory about how it all articulates without giving away the store, and he explains it vividly."
Michael S. Gazzaniga, PhD, Director, Sage Center for the Study of Mind

"Graziano proposes a new and intriguing theory of consciousness.. Graziano guides readers step-by-step through his captivating and convincing theory of consciousness, explaining how the theory accounts for many oddities in human perception. This book is an essential read for anyone interested in consciousness from either a scientific or philosophical perspective." -- Library Journal

Library Journal
The question of how the brain creates consciousness has been debated for hundreds of years, with some experts deeming the issue a "hard problem" that can never be solved. Neuroscientist and best-selling novelist Graziano (psychology, Princeton Univ.; God, Soul, Mind, Brain; The Divine Farce) proposes a new and intriguing theory of consciousness that explains how the brain creates and makes use of subjective awareness and sets out to resolve perceptual illusions, such as the "out-of-body" experience and the misattribution of consciousness to inanimate objects. Graziano asserts that consciousness is an informational description, or "sketch" of attention, and the attribution of awareness to one's self and to others is essentially the same process, which inextricably links consciousness to social perception. Basing his work on neuroscience research, Graziano identifies two brain areas that may be critical for subjective awareness—the temporo-parietal junction and the superior temporal sulcus. Finally, he impartially discusses implications for free will, the existence of God, and eternal life. VERDICT Graziano guides readers step-by-step through his captivating and convincing theory of consciousness, explaining how the theory accounts for many oddities in human perception. This book is an essential read for anyone interested in consciousness from either a scientific or philosophical perspective.—Katherine G. Akers, Emory Univ. Libs., Atlanta
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199928644
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/2/2013
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 297,995
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael S. A. Graziano, Professor of Neuroscience at Princeton University, is an internationally renowned scientist and an award-winning novelist. His books include the popular science book God, Soul, Mind, Brain and the short novels The Divine Farce, The Love Song of Monkey, and Death My Own Way.

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Table of Contents

Part I: The Theory
Chapter 1: The magic trick
Chapter 2: Introducing the theory
Chapter 3: Awareness as information
Chapter 4: Being aware versus knowing that you are aware
Chapter 5: The attention schema
Chapter 6: Illusions and myths
Chapter 7: Social attention
Chapter 8: How do I distinguish my awareness from yours?
Chapter 9: Some useful complexities

Part II: Comparison to previous theories and results
Chapter 10: Social theories of consciousness
Chapter 11: Consciousness as integrated information
Chapter 12: Neural correlates of consciousness
Chapter 13: Awareness and the machinery for social perception
Chapter 14: The neglect syndrome
Chapter 15: Multiple interlocking functions of the brain area TPJ
Chapter 16: Simulating other minds
Chapter 17: Some spiritual matters
Chapter 18: Explaining the magic trick

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