An Overview of Self-Awareness and the Brain

Julian Paul Keenan, Hanna Oh and Franco Amati

in The Oxford Handbook of Social Neuroscience

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780195342161
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

An Overview of Self-Awareness and the Brain

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Social Psychology



This chapter shows how the key to understanding self-awareness over the course of evolution and human development relies in the understanding of how the self resides in the complexities of the brain. From the social neuroscience perspective, the brain has developed specialized mechanisms for processing information about the social environment, including the ability to understand ourselves, to know how others respond to us, and to regulate our actions in order to avoid being dismissed from our social groups. The neural correlates of self-awareness are largely unknown, though it is apparent that the frontal lobes play a crucial role. There are two basic approaches for studying the brain regions involved in self-awareness: studying the impaired brain and imaging the healthy brain using devices such as PET, MRI, and fMRI. The brain regions involved in self-recognition, self-awareness, self-assessment, and theory of mind are discussed.

Keywords: Self-awareness; self-recognition; neuroimaging; consciousness; mirror-recognition; frontal cortex; transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Article.  8005 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience ; Social Psychology

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