Volume 4 · Number 1 · Pages 1–14 & 32–37
How and Why the Brain Lays the Foundations for a Conscious Self

Martin V. Butz

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Purpose: Constructivism postulates that the perceived reality is a complex construct formed during development. Depending on the particular school, these inner constructs take on different forms and structures and affect cognition in different ways. The purpose of this article is to address the questions of how and, even more importantly, why we form such inner constructs. Approach: This article proposes that brain development is controlled by an inherent anticipatory drive, which biases learning towards the formation of forward predictive structures and inverse goal-oriented control structures. This drive, in combination with increasingly complex environmental interactions during cognitive development, enforces the structuring of our conscious self, which is embedded in a constructed inner reality. Essentially, the following questions are addressed: Which basic mechanisms lead us to the construction of inner realities? How are these emergent inner realities structured? How is the self represented within the inner realities? And consequently, which cognitive structures constitute the media for conscious thought and selfconsciousness? Findings: Due to the anticipatory drive, representations in the brain shape themselves predominantly purposefully or intentionally. Taking a developmental, evolutionary perspective, we show how the brain is forced to develop progressively complex and abstract representations of the self embedded in the constructed inner realities. These self representations can evoke different stages of self-consciousness. Implications: The anticipatory drive shapes brain structures and cognition during the development of progressively more complex, competent, and flexible goal-oriented bodyenvironment interactions. Self-consciousness develops because increasingly abstract, individualizing self representations are necessary to realize these progressively more challenging environmental interactions.

Key words: anticipatory drive, self consciousness, mirror neurons, sensorimotor bodyspaces, language, social cognition


Butz M. V. (2008) How and why the brain lays the foundations for a conscious self. Constructivist Foundations 4(1): 1–14 & 32–37. http://constructivist.info/4/1/001

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