Why did the self evolve? Why do humans put such a premium on self-deception. What are the neurological implications of social pressure on the brain? Is the entire self an illusion?

The questions we ask are big questions. We were first interested in self-face recognition and self-awareness wondering why the brain would give us a self. Starting in 1995 we began working on determining the neural correlates of self-recognition and self-awareness. What began to emerge was a picture of a brain that had lateralized components in the right hemisphere that were tuned to respond to self-faces. 

But this right hemisphere bias was not limited to self-faces. As our initial results were replicated, others extended the findings to other self-related parts of the body. These findings were also extended to the real question which was self-awareness. Self-awareness engaged the right hemisphere but also extensive networks of the medial prefrontal cortex. Taken together, after a few decades and with many researchers working on the problem,  we can finally conclusively state that the right hemisphere along with the medial prefrontal cortex mediates the self and its relation to the social world.

Some of Dr. Keenan's books in the United States...

.... and abroad

Decker et al., In press. Lying, Deception, and the Brain

Oxford Handbook of Lying

How to think about the evolution of deception

Our most recent thoughts on Evolutionary Biology and the social brain.

The final series of studies involve incorporating Libet's work and extending it to an evolutionary model which is where we are today. Both at the molecular level and the larger regional level, we are continuing to fill in the evolutionary story of how humans got to be self-aware. 

One result we continued to find was that humans regularly existed in a state of self-enhancement and self-deception. While the field was pressing the social self we were also finding that deception was the critical bridge between the self and the brain and its social abilities. What holds up this bridge is the evolved mammalian cortex, which takes us back to the notion that nothing makes sence in biology without an evolutionary context. 

Hanging out with Hillary Clinton at my LOCAL BOOKSTORE. Buy my books and all other things literary at your local bookstore

Founded by Julian Keenan with Jean Decety, the journal  Social Neuroscience revealed how important this field had become