Origins of Thought: Consciousness, Language, Egocentric Speech and the Multiplicity of Mind
Edited by Sir Roger Penrose, FRS, Ph.D., & Stuart Hameroff, Ph.D.
Cosmology Science Publishers, Cambridge, 2011)
by Rhawn Gabriel Joseph
Rhawn Gabriel Joseph, Ph.D.
KEY WORDS: Consciousness, thinking, egocentric speech, origin of thought, Development of thought, language, mind
1. Consciousness and the Multiplicity of Mind
Consciousness must be conscious of something. Consciousness, to be conscious, requires something which is separate from consciousness, and which becomes an object or focus of consciousness, such as a lamp, dog, cloud, car, singing birds, or the smile of a willing lover. Consciousness in order to be conscious requires something to be conscious of. Even if consciousness is only conscious of being conscious, i.e. self-consciousness, consciousness must be separate from itself to be conscious of itself, thereby becoming an object of consciousness, mirroring and reflecting itself as a duality. The same can be said of the train-of-thought which appears before or within consciousness but is never identical with consciousness (Joseph 1982).
Consciousness is not a singularity, but a multiplicity which, in humans, is often dominated by visual impressions and language (Joseph 1982, 2009). It is this multiplicity which makes consciousness of consciousness possible.
Insofar as consciousness is associated with the brain, then it could be said that the tissues of the mind consists of semi-independent mental realms which are maintained by the brainstem, thalamus, limbic system, the right and left hemisphere, and the occipital, temporal, parietal, and frontal lobes (Joseph 1982, 1986a,b, 1988a,b, 1992, 1999, 2009), each of which speaks and comprehends their own unique language, e.g. visual, tactile, olfactory, auditory. For example, the primary visual cortex perceives, processes, and becomes conscious of visual input but is largely deaf and blind to complex auditory signals, whereas the primary auditory receiving areas are blind and cannot see complex shapes or forms (Joseph 1996).
Because specific regions of the brain are specialized to perform specific functions, information transmitted between these tissues of the mind must undergo a transformation and become translated into a language the other can process and understand (Joseph 1982, 1986a,b, 1988a; Joseph et al., 1984). When the brain talks to itself, it could be said to be thinking; and these thoughts may be visual, verbal, tactile, emotional, or consist of myriad abstractions and symbols which then become objects of the consciousness maintained by the various realms of the multiplicity of mind.
Even if we associate consciousness with the activity of the brain, consciousness is never identical with what it is conscious of. When conscious of the flickering light of a lamp and the wavering shadows on the wall, consciousness and the shadows and flickering lamp light are not one and the same, but are separate and distinguishable. Consciousness is not the lamp, and the lamp is not consciousness; though it could be argued the lamp is in consciousness, just as a lamp may reside in a room next to the bed but remains distinguishable and separate from its surroundings.
Even if the brain is electrically stimulated by a neurosurgeon, any sensations, hallucinations, or memories evoked are experienced as appearing before or in an observing consciousness (Gloor, 1997; Halgren 1992; Penfield 1952; Penfield and Perot 1963). Likewise, when a subject is placed in a sensory reduced environment and deprived of external stimulation, although the brain will produce its own stimulation and generate complex hallucinations, these hallucinatory phenomenon are experienced as detached from the mind (Mason & Brady 2010; Riesen 1975; Zubek 1969).
Consciousness is relational and the same applies to conscious thought which is experienced as separate from consciousness, albeit as taking place inside the head. We may be "in our thoughts" but only insofar as we are thinking the thoughts, and thinking about ourselves as an object of thought which we are conscious of.
2. Thinking and Listening
Producing thoughts and experiencing and becoming conscious of thoughts as they are being produced, are indications of duality in the brain and mind (Joseph 1982, 2009).
In some respects, consciousness could be likened to a witness or an observer, and the same is true when observing or listening to an internally generated train of thought which often takes the form of an internal dialogue or picture show which is being experienced and even heard or seen within one's head (Joseph 1982). Thought, be it thinking in words, musical notes, math symbols, geometric patterns, or picture-images, is not synonymous with consciousness and often originates outside of consciousness and only appears to consciousness after the thoughts are organized and assembled (Ghiselin, 1952; Mandler, 1975; Neisser, 2006; Neisser & Fivush 2008; Nisbet & Wilson, 1977; Wilson, 2004).
Thoughts are the "actors on the stage" and consciousness is the audience. However, until the thoughts emerge, they are hidden from consciousness.
Take for example, "tip of the tongue" word-finding difficulty, in which the missing word is known yet not known. We are conscious that the word can't be found, but are not conscious of the identity of the missing word, though we know it's there. Nevertheless, although aware of the missing word's existence, we are unable to identify it or name it until it appears before consciousness. Awareness vs consciousness and "tip-of-the-tongue" are evidence of duality, and the same is true when considering the nature of consciousness and thought (Joseph 1982).
This duality is most evident in considering the developmental origins of verbal-thoughts. Thinking-in-words initially takes place not inside-the-head, but externally: children first speak their thoughts out-loud, and only gradually, as they grow older, do they begin to think their thoughts inside the privacy of their own head (Piaget, 1974; Vygotsky, 1956). The child speaks their thoughts, and listens to them as they are spoken, and this indicates duality. It is these developmental origins which provide one of the keys to understanding the nature of thought, the purpose of which is to serve the multiplicity of mind.
3. Language, Duality And The Train-Of-Thought
Although an individual may utilize visual, emotional, olfactory, musical, or tactile "imagery" when they think, thinking often takes the form of "words" which might be "heard" or rather, experienced, within one's own head. In fact, one need only listen to one's own thoughts in order to realize that thinking often consists of an internal linguistic monologue, a series of words heard inside the mind.
Thinking-in-words could be considered a form of internal perception, where strings of words, ideas, sentences, are produced by those tissues of the mind which speak the sounds of language, and which are perceived by that aspect of the conscious mind and brain which understands the sounds of language (Joseph 1982, 1986a,b, 1988ab). Thus, the train-of-thought which passes before consciousness, always has an origin which is outside of that aspect of the conscious mind which is listening to the train as it passes.
Thinking-in-words often serves consciousness and the brain as a means of explanation, commentary, or aimless internal chatter (Joseph 1982). Verbal thinking generally consists of an organized temporal-sequential hierarchy of associations, symbols, and labels which appear before an observor, or which are heard by the thinker. It is also a temporal progression, an associative advance and an elaboration which often appears with an initial or leading idea that is followed by a series of related verbal ideations. In the process of thinking in-words, one often acts to organized information which is "not thought out" and not clearly understood, so it may become thought out and thus comprehended in a logical, temporal sequential verbal format. To "think things out", "give it a lot of thought", or "think about it", serves an explanatory or deductive function (Mandler, 1975; Neisser, 2006; Wilson, 2004).
Yet the need to explain things to oneself seems paradoxical. It might be asked, "who is explaining what to whom?" Apparently the "I" that I am thinks (explains) these "things" to the "I" that I am.
We are presented with a curious duality in the nature of consciousness, the purpose of thought, and in the functioning of the brain. Insofar as the train of thought originates in me, in my brain and in my mind then I should know its aim and content prior to (not after) symbolizing the substance of the subject into the temporal-sequential linear organization that the verbal-thinking process generates. However, often we do know; there is an awareness; but the thoughts, idea, memories, and so on, remain hidden from consciousness, as again exemplified by "tip-of-the-tongue" world finding difficulty (Joseph 1982). We become conscious of this information and achieve explicit knowledge only after the information is transferred or made available to that aspect of the conscious mind which is dependent on language for understanding.
Limiting our discussion to word-thoughts, we must conclude, therefore, that the thoughts which will be expressed are not in consciousness before they are expressed, and are formulated and organized by a part of the brain which relies on language for expression, whereas they are comprehended by those regions of the mind-brain which require language for comprehension.
These thoughts only become an object of consciousness after they are organized into a train-of-thought by an aspect of mind which is separate from yet linked with that region of consciousness which experiences the train as it goes by. In other words, one realm of the brain and mind is clearly providing information and often explaining feelings, actions, observations, intentions, or conclusions, to another realm of the brain mind, and this is accomplished when thoughts become language; one region of the mind producing the verbal thoughts, the other listening (Joseph 1982, 1986a, 1988a). And, because these particular forms of thought are structured and perceived as words heard within one's head, then not surprisingly, they come to rely on the same neural pathways and brain structures which subserve the production and perception of language (Friederici, 2002; Kaan & Swaab, 2002; Newman, Just, & Carpenter, 2002) , i.e. the inferior parietal lobule/angular gyrus, Broca's expressive speech area in the left frontal lobe, and Wernicke's receptive speech area in the superior temporal lobe (Joseph 1982, 1986a, 1988a; 1999, 2000a). In fact, when engaged in verbal thought, these language areas typically becomes activated as indicated by functional imaging (Kaan & Swaab, 2002; Keller et al., 2001; Paulesu, et al., 1993; Petersen et al., 1988).
4. Brain and Language
Specifically, it is the lateral surface of the right and left frontal lobe which control vocalization and verbal-though production, the left frontal (Broca's area) producing the words, the right frontal the melody of language (Joseph 1982, 1986a, 1988a, 1996, 1999). The frontal lobes are interlocked with the association areas in the posterior regions of the cerebrum (Petrides & Pandya. 1999, 2001), including Wernicke's area and the angular gyrus - inferior parietal lobe (IPL), as well as the memory centers in the temporal lobe (Joseph 1986a, 1996, 1999). The frontal lobes are therefore continually informed about and have continual access to information processed in these areas of the brain.
The primary auditory receiving areas are located in the superior temporal lobe. Once received and processed, these auditory signals are transferred to the immediately adjacent Wernicke's area which associates these sounds and comprehends the words of language; whereas the the auditory association area in the right temporal lobe comprehends environmental sounds and melodic and emotional vocalizations (Joseph 1982, 1988a, 2000). Via a massive neural pathways (the corpus callosum) the right and left auditory receiving areas work together when presented with complexity and paralinguistic features which require analysis (Just et al., 1996; Michael et al. 2001; Schlosser et al., 1998).
In addition, Wernicke's also plays a major role in the comprehension of verbal-thought, and, in conjunction with the right temporal lobe, the generation of spontaneous thought (Christoff et al., 2004). It is Wernicke's area (in conjunction with the IPL) which provides the words of language to the frontal lobes, and then listens to the train of thought as it passes by.
These temporal lobe auditory areas are linked to the frontal vocalization areas by a rope of nerve fibers, the arcuate fasciculus which passes through the angular gyrus/IPL--an area of the brain which assimilates associations and provides auditory-verbal labels to sensory stimuli. In fact the IPL and frontal lobes become active across a variety of language and non-language problem-solving and thinking tasks (Ben-Shahar et al., 2003; Dapretto & Bookheimer, 1999; Lehmann et al. 2009; Szaflarski et al., 2006; Tyler & Marslen-Wilson 2008; Vigneau et al. 2006).
Therefore, whereas Broca's area (in conjunction with the IPL) organizes and expresses the sounds of language and verbal thoughts, Wernicke's area (in conjunction with the IPL) is responsible for comprehending thoughts, ideas, feeling, and so on, after they are put into words.
Thus, it is Broca's area which does the explaining, and it is Wernicke's area which comprehends the train of thought as it goes by. However, when it comes to comprehending internally generated thoughts, Wernicke's area is the last to know.
5. The Development of Language & Thought
Thinking in words is clearly related to language; and human language is a function of the human brain. It is the brain which makes it possible to speak and comprehend language, and to think thoughts, and these thoughts enable one region of the brain to communicate information to another brain area which is dependent on language for comprehension. Thinking in words often serves as a means of organizing, interpreting, and explaining information or impulses so that the language dependent regions of the brain and mind may achieve understanding (Gallagher & Joseph, 1982; Joseph 1982; Joseph & Gallagher, 1985, Joseph et al., 1984).
Initially, and over the course of child development, the thinking of thoughts, that is, the thinking of thoughts as strings of words is externalized and verbally expressed out-loud and is then comprehended as an explanatory commentary, after-the-fact (Joseph, 1982). Children think out-loud, and not in the privacy of their head (Piaget, 1952, 1962, 1974; Vygotsky, 1962).
The brain (or mind) of the child talks to itself by speaking thoughts (instead of thinking the thoughts) which are then heard, by the child, as the thoughts are spoken out-loud. In fact, initially, it appears that children are incapable of thinking inside-their-head but can only understand their thoughts, if they are spoken (Piaget, 1952, 1962, 1974; Vygotsky, 1962).
This indicates that one region of the child's brain must talk out-loud to communicate with another region of the brain which can only receive and comprehend these thoughts if they are spoken. The duality of actor/orator vs audience/listener, is present from the very beginning and it takes place on a stage located not inside the child's head, but outside in the world.
Certainly infants and young children are capable of internalized thinking, but these thoughts are visual and emotional, not verbal (Joseph 1982, 1992; 2003; Piaget, 1974). This is a function of their limited vocabulary and is exemplified by the fact that the first long term memories are emotional and visual and not verbal (Joseph 2003). Thus, the child must acquire language before thinking in words or forming verbal memories. However, the pathways between those areas of the brain which produce thoughts vs those which comprehend thoughts, must also also mature, before word-thoughts can be produced and comprehended internally.
6. Three Linguistic Stages
Broadly considered, there are three maturational stages of verbal development that correspond to the acquisition and development of language and which leads to the thinking of thoughts (Joseph 1982, 1992, 1996). Initially, linguistic expression is reflexive and/or indicative of generalized and diffuse emotions and feelings states. Vocalizations are largely emotional-prosodic in quality, and mediated by limbic and brainstem nuclei. It is only over the course of the first few months, around 1-3 months of age, that these prosodic-melodic utterances become associated with specific moods and emotions (Joseph 1982, 1992). It is at this time that "early babbling" makes it appearance and the infant begins to "coo," "goo," in a repetitive fashion, i.e. "ma ma ma"; and this is referred to as "early babbling."
"Early" babbling is produced by the brainstem and limbic system (Joseph 1982, 1992), and is replaced by "late" babbling which has its onset around 4 months of age. Late babbling is sometimes described as "repetitive babbling" in which the same consonant is repeated, such as "da da da." These transitions are directly related to the maturation of the neocortical speech areas as they gain hierarchical control over the subcortical speech centers (Joseph 1996).
Around one year of age, and once the neocortical speech areas begin to mature and establish hierarchical control over the limbic system and brainstem so as to program the oral-laryngeal motor areas, a new form of vocalization emerges and the infant begins to produce "jargon babbles" and to speak their first words. Syllabication is imposed on the intonational contours of the child's emotional speech by the still immature neocortex of left frontal lobe and motor areas, such that the melodic features of generalized vocal expression come to be punctuated, sequenced, and segmented, and vowel and consonantal elements begin to be produced (Joseph, 1982, 1992). Left hemisphere speech comes to be superimposed over limbic (and right hemisphere) melodic language output, and the infant begins saying actual words. However, due to the immaturity of the neocortex (Churgani, et al. 1987; Blinkov & Glezer, 1968; Conel, 1939; Lecours, 1975), most of the speech produced is "jargon" and resembles the "jargon aphasia" associated with injuries to Wernicke's area (Goodglass & Kaplan, 2000; Joseph 1996). However, rather than due to brain damage, jargon babbling reflects the extreme immaturity of the neocortical speech areas.
The development of jargon babbling appears to correspond to maturational events taking place in the motor areas of the neocortex which begins to rapidly mature around the first postnatal year (Chi, Dooling, & Gilles, 1977; Gilles et al. 1983; Scheibel, 1991, 1993). Jargon babbling coincides with the production of the first words which are spoken around 11-12 months on average (Nelson, 1981; Oller & Lynch, 1992). In fact, jargon babbling resembles actual speech, and at a distance it may sound as if the infant is conversing and speaking real words, though in fact they are babbling prosodically sophisticated neologistic jargon. Hence, the emergence of the jargon babbling stage signifies an obvious shift in sound production from the limbic system and brainstem to the still immature neocortex.
Jargon babbling not only resembles normal fluent speech but is often produced as the infant is gazing at or making eye-to-eye contact with the listener. Jargon vocalizations are both social and self-directed as the infant also jargon babbles while alone and at play, or while gazing at or exploring some object. When meant for the child's ears alone, these babbles could be described as "egocentric babbling."
Over the ensuing years, social speech emerges from jargon (conversational) babbling, whereas egocentric speech emerges from egocentric babbling. It is egocentric speech which gives birth to thinking-in-words.
Egocentric speech is essentially speech for oneself, and is the first evidence of thinking in words. The child is thinking out loud (Joseph, 1982; Piaget, 1962; Vygotsky, 1962). Egocentric speech is slowly internalized between the ages of 3 and 5, and eventually becomes completely covert; at which point, the child has not only learned to speak in words, but to silently think in words as well (Joseph 1982, 1996; Vygotsky, 1962).
7. Egocentric Speech and the Origins of Thought
At around age 3 the child produces two types of speech: social and egocentric. Part of the time the child engages in social conversational speech which is directed toward others, whereas the remainder of speech activities are egocentric and directed for the sole benefit of the child who listens to their vocalizations as they play (Joseph, 1982, 1996; Piaget, 1962; Vygotsky, 1962).
Egocentric speech is self-directed speech that consists of an explanatory monologue in which children comment on or explain their play and other actions, to themselves. Initially egocentric speech is produced only after the action has occurred. That is, the child essentially talks to themselves, but in an explanatory fashion: They tell themselves what they are doing and what they have done. Egocentric speech is a self-directed form of communication which heralds the first attempts at self-explanation via thinking-out-loud.
Egocentric speech makes its appearance at approximately 3 years of age, and at its peak comprises almost 40-50% of the child's language (Piaget (1952, 1962, 1974). In contrast to conversational social speech in which the child is engaging in a back-and-forth dialogue and is attuned to the listening needs of others, when engaged in egocentric speech the child is oblivious to his/her audience simply because the words spoken are meant for his/her ears alone (Piaget, 1952, 1962, 1974; Vygotsky, 1962). The child is essentially thinking out loud in an explanatory fashion, commenting on and describing his or her actions and is both orator and audience (Joseph, 1982).
When engaged in an egocentric monologue, there is no interest in influencing or explaining to others what in fact is being explained. The child will keep up a running verbal accompaniment to their actions, commenting on their behavior in an explanatory fashion even while alone. Moreover, while engaged in this self-directed external monlogue the child appears oblivious to the responses of others to their statements (Piaget, 1952, 1962, 1974; Vygotsky, 1956). If a playmate were to reply to a statement made during an egocentric monologue, it would not be heard by the child producing the egocentric monologue. It is as if the child has no awareness that others hear him when producing egocentric speech. In fact, many a child has been shocked when, later, his mother (or a friend) repeats or comments upon something he assumed no one else could hear; as if mom can read their thoughts! Thus, when engaged in egocentric speech, the child may not be conscious of the fact they are thinking out-loud.
8. Thinking Out Loud: The Stages of Thought Internalization
Egocentric speech is a dialogue where the child is both the speaker and the listener, the actor and the audience. It is an explanatory monologue, serving as a commentary that is initially produced only after an action has been completed by the child. That is, the child explains to him/herself what they have done after they have observed themselves complete some action, and then they comment on and/or explain what has taken place (Piaget 1974; Vygotsky, 1962). For example the 3-4 year old child will paint a picture and then explain it after it is completed: "This the sun shining on mommy." Or they will crash their toy truck into another toy truck and then remark on and explain what happened: "Trucks crashed."
As the child grows older, instead of explaining after the fact, they will explain what they are doing, as they are doing it. For example the 4-5 year old child will paint a picture and explain it while she is painting, or state the toy trucks are crashing into each other as they smash together. The egocentric monologue accompanies the action.
By time the child reaches age 5-6, they will announced what they are going to do and then do it. For example, the child may state she is going to paint a picture of "mommy and daddy at the beach and they are happy", and then paints it, or he will take his two toy trucks and state "now they are going to crash and everyone will die" and then he will smash the trucks together.
Hence, as the child grows older their comments and explanations occur earlier in the sequence of expression, until finally the child begins to explain his/her actions before they are performed instead of after they have occurred (Piaget, 1952, 1962, 1974; Vygotsky, 1962).
Egocentric speech presents us with an obvious duality: initially, the part of the brain and mind that relies on language, does not know what another part of the brain and mind intends to do, until after the fact, at which point the language regions comment on and explains, to themselves, what they have done and why. This indicates that the aspect of the brain and mind which is talking and listening, does not know until after the actions are performed, and only achieves understanding when language is used to explain their actions to themselves. Presumably, this is due, in part, to functional disconnections between brain areas, secondary to the immaturity of these tissues and their nerve fiber interconnections (Joseph 1982, 1996; Joseph et al., 1984). That is, because different brain areas and their neuronal interconnections can take years to decades to mature (Blinkov & Glezer, 1968; Lecours, 1975; Szaflarski et al., 2006), their ability to communicate is limited. One area of the brain and mind may initiate a behavior, which is witnessed or experienced by other (disconnected) brain areas, only as it occurs outside the brain and body.
Thus, for the first several years of life, it appears that the child's brain as a whole does not know what or why they are engaged in certain actions, or even that they intend to perform certain actions, until after the act has been completed; at which point they explain what they did and why, to those areas of the brain-mind which are dependent on language. This is because one region of the brain initiates the behavior, and another witnesses and then explains to itself what just happened. The child is both actor and witness, explainer and explained to. Clearly, when engaged in an egocentric monologue and thinking-out-loud, the child (the left frontal-temporal-parietal axis) explains their actions to themself.
However, around age 4, and as the child's neural pathways mature, the frontal lobes and language-dependent regions of the brain and mind receive information about their intentions as they engage in these acts, and thus explain, to themselves, what they are doing, while they are doing it. Neuronal interconnections begin to mature and to increasingly communicate and share information.
Around age 5, this information become available before rather than during or after they act. Thus they begin to explain, to themselves, what they are planning to do before they do it. This advanced warning parallels the increasing maturity of the nerve fiber pathways between brain areas (Szaflarski et al. 2006), and the ability of these tissues of the mind to successfully transfer and receive complex information from other regions of the cerebrum (Gallagher & Joseph, 1982; Joseph & Gallagher, 1985; Joseph et al., 1984).
By the time the child reaches age 5-6, egocentric speech has become increasingly internalized (Piaget 1974; Vygotsky, 1962). The pathways between different brain areas have matured (Szaflarski et al., 2006) such as the arcuate fasciculus linking Wernicke's and Broca's area, and the child no longer needs to vocalize their thoughts, but can instead think and comprehend these thoughts internally (Joseph, 1982, 1996). The neural pathways linking these tissues of the mind have sufficiently matured so that information can be readily transferred between brain areas. However, even after thinking has become completely internalized it remains self-directed. Thinking continues to serve an explanatory function.
9. The Internalization of Egocentric Speech
Egocentric speech is never directed at others. Groups of children may be playing together, and each child may be engaged in an egocentric monologue. They are not talking to the other children. They are talking to themselves. They are thinking-out-loud.
Initially egocentric speech is completely external and after the fact (Piaget, 1974; Vygotsky, 1956). Since they are utilizing words, it is thus apparent that they are engaging those areas of the left hemisphere which are dominant for expressing and comprehending language: the frontal-temporal lobes (Kaan & Swaab, 2002; Michael et al., 2001; Schlosser et al. 1998; Tyler & Marslen-Wilson 2008). However, because of the immaturity of the child's brain, vast regions are partially disconnected. Therefore, specific areas of the brain and mind associated with language, are also partially disconnected, essentially creating two brains and two minds in a single head (Gallagher & Joseph, 1982; Joseph 1982; Joseph & Gallagher, 1985; Joseph et al., 1984). In fact, the pattern of neurological activity during the performance of language tasks, does not begin to resemble the adult pattern until the onset of puberty (Holcomb et al., 1992).
Therefore it appears that children must speak their thoughts out loud due to the immaturity of the interconnections between Broca's area and the temporal-parietal area (Szaflarski et al., 2006), and the immaturity of the corpus callosum neural pathways which link the right and left hemisphere (Gallagher & Joseph, 1982; Joseph 1982, Joseph & Gallagher, 1985; Joseph et al., 1984). Thus, the right half of the brain or limbic system may initiate certain behaviors without the knowledge of the language dependent aspects of consciousness associated with the left hemisphere; which then explains, to itself, what it observes. However, because of the immaturity of the neural pathways within the language areas of the left hemisphere, the frontal lobes must speak the thoughts so they may be heard by Wernicke's area.
Hence, improvements in neocortical transmission in the language areas, and between the right and left hemisphere, parallel the stages of egocentric speech and its internalization as silent thought.
10. Thinking and the Evolution and Development of the Multiplicity of Mind
The mind is a multiplicity, and different regions of the brain and mind speak different languages as they are specialized to perceive or process specific types of stimuli and information. Moreover, although certain areas of the brain are richly interconnected, the neural pathways between yet other tissues of the mind are sparse or non-existant as there is no need for them to communicate, except indirectly and through intermediary tissues such as the angular gyrus of the inferior parietal lobule. For example, the angular gyrus of the inferior parietal lobe is situated at the junction of the association areas for vision, hearing, and somesthesis, and, in conjunction with the frontal lobes and Wernicke's area (Lehmann et al. 2009; Szaflarski et al., 2006), assimilates associations and diverse information variables and then organizes and categorizes them into words and multi-modal linguistic concepts which can be translated into language and the train of thought (Joseph 1982, 1986a). It is the IPL/angular gyrus which enables a person to see, for example, a "cup" and to associate the word "cup" with the visual image, or to imagine a variety of cups of varying size, colors, or utilities, ranging from a "world cup" to the "cup size of a bra." The IPL essentially assimilates diverse associations thereby making it possible to form multi-modal concepts which may be differentially comprehended by different aspects of the mind.
However, not all sensations or information variables have auditory equivalents and cannot be adequately described using language. Words completely fail to describe how it feels to ride a horse, parachute from a falling plane, swim beneath the sea, dilate the pupil of an eye, or experience an orgasm. Moreover, there are myriad behaviors which do not require and which occur independently of the language-dependent aspects of the mind. For example, there are nerve centers in the ancient brainstem which control heart rate, breathing, and pupil dilation; and although influenced by "higher cortical" activity in the forebrain, for the most part these activities take place without the assistance or participation of the conscious mind and the more recently evolved necortical surface layers of the cerebrum. There are also limbic system structures such as the hypothalamus and amygdala which mediate various aspects of emotion and which may hijack the rational, logical, and language dependent aspects of the brain and mind (Joseph 1992); which, like the egocentric child, may act without thinking, and then later may exclaim: "I don't know what came over me" and then search for an answer.
From an evolutionary perspective, it must be recognized that the brain has evolved over the course of the last 600 million years, and it is only around 100 million ago that the six layered neocortical mantle, began to evolve and to slowly cover and envelop the old brain which includes the extremely ancient limbic system and brainstem. Further, it is only within the last 100,000 years that the language-dependent aspects of consciousness began to evolve (Joseph, 1996, 2000b).
However, be it the brain of a modern human, or that of a reptile, much of behavior is under the control of these more ancient tissues of the mind which do not require language or any type of logical or analytical thinking to perform their functions. Thus, these regions of the brain usually function completely independently of human consciousness which is essentially not-conscious and has no conscious access to the workings of the more ancient regions of the mind.
(Left) Human Brain Development 3-Weeks to 9-Months. (Right) Brain Evolution 500 Million Years to 10,000 Years Ago.
Ontogeny does not always replicate phyologeny. However, the development and maturation of the human brain does in fact parallel the evolution of the brain (Joseph 1996) such that the brainstem structures are fully functional at birth (Joseph 2000c), followed by the limbic system (Joseph 1992, 1996), whereas the more recently evolved neocortex is the last to develop, with some areas taking up to 20 years to fully mature (Blinkov & Glezer, 1968; Conel, 1939; Lecours, 1975).
Likewise, emotional, visual, and motor functioning mature well in advance of language. Therefore, in many respects, language, and the language-dependent aspects of consciousness, can be considered an after-thought phyologenetically and ontogenetically, and as such, these areas of the brain and mind often have no access to those tissues controlling behavior, and are therefore often the last to know.
11. The Multiplicity of Mind and the Conscious Unconscious
Seeking knowledge and information, the language dependent aspects of consciousness produce thoughts, to explain to itself why. Thinking, especially thinking-in-words, often serves an explanatory function; and often its purpose is to obtain information or explain behaviors which have a source in the non-linguistic regions of the brain and mind.
Essentially, egocentric speech, and then internalized verbal thoughts, are largely a function of the left hemisphere's attempt to organize, interpret, and make sense of behavior initiated by brain structures not concerned with the denotative, grammatical aspects of human language. Initially, egocentric speech externalized thought production is due to the immaturity of neural pathways which hinder information transfer not just within the left hemisphere, but from the right to left half of the brain (Gallagher & Joseph, 1982; Joseph, 1982; Joseph & Gallgher 1985; Joseph et al., 1984); a function of the immaturity of the corpus callosal fibers connections between the hemispheres (Yakovlev & Lecours, 1967).
However, even in the "normal" intact adult, information transmission within and between the right and left halves of the brain is often incomplete (Joseph 1982, 1988a). Because different brain tissues are functionally specialized to perform different functions, they speak different language and even information which is shared must be interpreted and translated--and much may be misinterpreted or lost in translation. As such, those regions of the mind in the left hemisphere dependent on language sometimes observe (and participates) in behaviors which it did not initiate, and which it does not understand, and will then think up an explanation. However, because it does not have access to this information, the explanations which are thought up, frequently amount to little more than self-deception.
Consider a famous experiment by Nisbet and Wilson (1977) in which they invited shoppers to participate in a consumer survey and to evaluate and indicate their preference for one of four identical pairs of nylon stockings which were laid out in front of them from left to right. Subjects were asked to handle and test the stockings, and to indicate which they thought was the best. Although the stockings were in fact identical, 75% of the subjects believed the stocking on their right was superior to the rest. When asked "why?" subjects confabulated a variety of explanations, claiming differences in color, texture, softness, durability, and so on, even though the stockings were identical! Most (right handed) people show a right-sided response bias (which is why "brand X" is always placed to the left). However, when asked if the position of the article effected their judgment, "virtually all subjects denied it, usually with a worried glance at the interviewer suggesting that they felt either that they had misunderstood the question or were dealing with a madman."
The fact is, based on over a century of psychological studies (Ghiselin, 1952; Mandler, 1975; Neisser, 2006; Neisser & Fivush 2008; Nisbet & Wilson, 1977; Wilson, 2004), it can be concluded that most people have no knowledge as to how they arrived at solving certain problems, made certain judgments, or why they engaged in various behaviors. Even the processes involved in intellectual and creative pursuits are outside the reach of consciousness. In a famous study of creative geniuses, Ghiselin (1952) concluded that "production by a process of purely conscious calculation seems never to occur." Instead, these geniuses often described themselves as observers, as bystanders who witness the fruits of the problem-solving or creative process only as or after it occurs.
The mind is a multiplicity, and those aspects of these mental realms collectively referred to as consciousness, have at best, only limited access to functional knowledge sources. Moreover, the language dependent aspects of consciousness has a limited capacity and can access and accurately report only a small bit of the information amenable to linguistic coding. Not all impulses, feelings, desires, fears, cravings, knowledge, etc., have a label and are not readily translatable into the codes that give rise to thought and language (Joseph, 1982, 1988a). Emotions in particular are easily subject to misinterpretation, misidentification, and misunderstanding, and the same is true of most non-emotional cognitive processes. Most individuals have no understanding of what is involved and on what basis evaluations, judgments, problem-solving strategies, and reasons for initiating certain behaviors were arrived at. This is largely due, however, to the dependence on language. The sequential, organizational linguistic processes which subserve consciousness in the form of verbal thought have no direct access to the basis of these 'processes' in part because they result from them in an attempt to explain them.
12. The Multiplicity of Mind: We Knowers Are Unknown To Ourselves
The brain/mind is a multiplicity (Joseph 2009), and for good reason. These conditions protect the brain and linguistic consciousness from becoming overwhelmed. Different regions of the brain, and thus the mind, are functionally specialized, thereby creating multiple minds which can engage in multiple tasks simultaneously. However, in consequence, we knowers are unknown to ourselves.
Thinking is a product of the multiplicity of mind. However, so too is consciousness. Consciousness, to be conscious, requires something which is separate from consciousness, and which becomes an object or focus of consciousness. Because the mind is a multiplicity, consciousness can be conscious of being conscious. Different regions of the brain may be conscious or at least aware of the mental activity occurring in yet other regions of the cerebrum; and this makes self-consciousness possible. In other words, consciousness does not separate from itself when attempting to know and think about itself, and this is because different forms of consciousness, a multiplicity of minds, dwell within the same head, thereby enabling the mind to be both observer and observed. Thus the distinguishing characteristic of consciousness is that it does not coincide with itself. Consciousness is not a duality—a reflection which is its own reflecting--but a multiplicity.
It is the languages spoken by these multiple minds, and the non-conscious origins of so much of what constitutes human behavior, which are responsible for the development and origin of thought, the primary function of which, is self-explanation: The I that I am, explains these thoughts to the I that I am.
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