Julian Jaynes (February 27, – November 21, ) was an American psychologist, best known for his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind () Jaynes wrote, “[For bicameral humans], volition came as a voice that was in the nature of a neurological command, in which the. Bicameralism is a radical hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once The term was coined by Julian Jaynes, who presented the idea in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, wherein he made the case that a bicameral mentality was the normal and. Consciousness and the Voices of the Mind: Response to the Discussants. JULIAN JAYNES. First of all I would like to say how honored to be the Bauer Memorial.

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Bicameralism the condition of being divided into “two-chambers” is a radical hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once operated in a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be “speaking”, and a second part which listens and obeys — a bicameral mind. The term was coined by Julian Jayneswho presented the idea in his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind[1] wherein he made the case that a bicameral mentality was the normal and ubiquitous state of the human mind as recently as 3, years ago, near the end of the Mediterranean bronze age.

Bicameralism (psychology)

Jaynes uses governmental bicameralism as a metaphor to describe a mental state in which the experiences and memories of the right hemisphere of the brain are transmitted to the left hemisphere via auditory hallucinations. The metaphor is based on the idea of lateralization of brain function although each half of a normal human brain is constantly communicating with the other through the corpus callosum.

The metaphor is not meant to imply that the two halves of the bicameral brain were “cut off” from each other but that the bicameral mind was experienced as a different, non-conscious mental schema wherein volition in the face of novel stimuli was mediated through a linguistic control mechanism and experienced as auditory verbal hallucination.

Bicameral mentality would be non-conscious in its inability to reason and articulate about mental contents through meta-reflection, reacting without explicitly realizing and without the meta-reflective ability to give an account of why one did so. The bicameral mind would thus lack metaconsciousness, autobiographical memory, and the capacity for executive “ego functions” such as deliberate mind-wandering and conscious introspection of mental content.

When bicamerality as a method of social control was no longer adaptive in complex civilizations, this mental model was replaced by the conscious mode of thought which, Jaynes argued, is grounded in the acquisition of metaphorical language learned by exposure to narrative practice. According to Jaynes, ancient people in the bicameral state of mind would have experienced the world in a manner that has some similarities to that of a schizophrenic.

Rather than making conscious evaluations in novel or unexpected situations, the person would hallucinate a voice or “god” giving admonitory advice or commands and obey without question: One would not be at all conscious of one’s own thought processes per se.

Jaynes’s hypothesis is offered as a possible explanation of ” command hallucinations ” that often direct the behavior of those labeled schizophrenic, as well as other voice hearers. Jaynes built a case for this hypothesis that human brains existed in a bicameral state until as recently as 3, years ago by citing evidence from many diverse sources including historical literature. He took an interdisciplinary approach, drawing data from many different fields.

Rather, the bicameral individual was guided by mental commands believed to be issued by external ” gods ” — commands which were recorded in ancient mythslegends and historical accounts. This is exemplified not only in the commands given to characters in ancient epics but also the very muses of Greek mythology which “sang” the poems. According to Jaynes, the ancients literally heard muses as the direct source of their music and poetry. Jaynes asserts that in the Iliad and sections of the Old Testament no mention is made of any kind of cognitive processes such as introspectionand there is no apparent indication that the writers were self-aware.

Jaynes suggests, the older portions of the Old Testament such as the Book of Amos have few or none of the features of some later books of the Old Testament such as Ecclesiastes as well as later works such as Homer’s Odysseywhich show indications of a profoundly different kind of mentality — an early form of consciousness.


In ancient times, Jaynes noted, gods were generally much more numerous and much more anthropomorphic than in modern times, and speculates that this was because each bicameral person had their own “god” who reflected their own desires and experiences. He also noted that in ancient societies the corpses of the dead were often treated as though still alive being seated, dressed, and even fed as a form of ancestor worshipand Jaynes argued that the dead bodies were presumed to be still living and the source of auditory hallucinations.

Unlike today’s hallucinations, the voices of ancient times were structured by cultural norms to produce a seamlessly functioning society. Jaynes inferred that these “voices” came from the right brain counterparts of the left brain language centres; specifically, the counterparts to Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area.

These regions are somewhat dormant in the right brains of most modern humans, but Jaynes noted that some studies show that auditory hallucinations correspond to increased activity in these areas of the brain. Jaynes notes that even at the time of publication there is no consensus as to the cause or origins of schizophrenia. Jaynes argues that schizophrenia is a vestige of humanity’s earlier bicameral state. As support for Jaynes’s argument, these command hallucinations are little different from the commands from gods which feature prominently in ancient stories.

Jaynes theorized that a shift from bicameralism marked the beginning of introspection and consciousness as we know it today. He speculates that primitive ancient societies tended to collapse periodically: Self-awareness, or consciousness, was the culturally evolved solution to this problem.

Consciousness and the Voices of the Mind

This necessity of communicating commonly observed phenomena among individuals who shared no common language or cultural upbringing encouraged those communities to become self-aware to survive in a new environment. Thus consciousness, like bicamerality, emerged as a neurological adaptation to social complexity in a changing world. Jaynes further argues that divinationprayerand oracles arose during this breakdown period, in an attempt to summon instructions from the “gods” whose voices could no longer be heard.

It was also evidenced in children who could communicate with the gods, but as their neurology was set by language and society they gradually lost that ability.

Those who continued prophesying, being bicameral according to Jaynes, could be killed. An early reviewer considered Jaynes’s hypothesis worthy and offered conditional support, arguing the notion deserves further study.

The Origin of Consciousness was financially successful, and has been reprinted several times. Originally published in [10] it was nominated for the National Book Award in Jaynes’s hypothesis remains controversial. The primary scientific criticism has been that the conclusions drawn by Jaynes had no basis in neuropsychiatric fact.

According to Jaynes, language is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for consciousness: Language existed thousands of years earlier, but consciousness could not have emerged without language. Williams [17] defended Jaynes against the criticism of Block The author’s published response was: It does not, however, adequately explain one of the central mysteries of madness: Moffic, [14] However Moffic’s claim that there is no evidence for involvement of the right temporal lobe in auditory hallucination was incorrect, even at the time that he wrote it.

The new evidence for Jaynes’s model of auditory hallucinations arising in the right temporal-parietal lobe and being transmitted to the left temporal-parietal lobe that these neuroimaging studies provide was specifically pointed out by Olin [22] and by Sher McVeigha graduate student of Jaynes, maintains that many of the most frequent criticisms of Jaynes’ theory are either incorrect or reflect serious misunderstandings of Jaynes’ theory, especially Jaynes’ more precise definition of consciousness.

Jaynes defines consciousness — in the tradition of Locke and Descartes — as ” that which is introspectable “. Jaynes draws a sharp distinction between consciousness ” introspectable mind-space ” and other mental processes such as cognition, learning, sensation, and perception. McVeigh argues that this distinction is frequently not recognized by those offering critiques of Jaynes’ theory. It is one of those books that is either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius; Nothing in between!

Perspective of Mind: Julian Jaynes

Probably the former, but I’m hedging my bets. The philosopher Daniel Dennett suggested that Jaynes may have been wrong about some of his supporting arguments — especially the importance he attached to hallucinations — but that these things are not essential to his main thesis: If we are going to use this top-down approach, we are going to have to be bold.

We are going to have to be speculative, but there is good and bad speculation, and this is not an unparalleled activity in science. Those scientists who have no taste for this sort of speculative enterprise will just have to stay in the trenches and do without it, while the rest of us risk embarrassing mistakes and have a lot of fun.


Gregory Cochrana physicist and adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Utah, wrote:.

There is evidence that such change has occurred. On first reading, Nad seemed one of conscjousness craziest books ever written, but Jaynes may have been on to something. Author and historian of science Morris Berman writes: Iain McGilchrist who published a similar ideaaccepts Jayne’s intention, but proposes that Jayne’s hypothesis was the opposite of what happened: I believe he [Jayne] got one important aspect of the story back to front.

His contention that the phenomena he describes came about because of a breakdown of the ‘bicameral mind’ — so that the two hemispheres, previously separate, now merged — is the precise inverse of what happened. As an argument against Jaynes’ proposed date of the transition from bicameralism to consciousness some critics have referred to the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Julian Jaynes’ study is mostly based on the writings and culture of the Mediterranean and Near-Eastern regions, although he occasionally also refers to ancient writings of India and China. Jaynes’ proposal does not explain how such bicameralism could also have been near totally lost at the same time across the whole planet and in consckousness entire human species.

Divination is also considerably older than that date and the early writings he claims show bicamerality: The oldest recorded Chinese Writing was on oracle bonesmeaning that divination arose at the same time or even earlier than writing in Chinese society. While he said ancient societies engaged in ancestor worship before this date, non-ancient societies also engaged in it after that date; very advanced societies like the Aztecs and Egyptians mummified and deified rulers see Pyramids and the philosopher Nezahualcoyotl.

The Aztecs and Incans did so all the way up to their conquest by the Spanish. It is now known [ citation needed ] that the sense of agency is closely connected with lateralization: The left parietal lobe is active when visualizing actions by the self, while the right parietal lobe is active for actions by others. Additionally, Wernicke’s area processes the literal meaning of language, while the homologous region in the right hemisphere processes the intent of a speaker.

It has been found [ citation needed ] that people with damage to the right inferior parietal cortex experience alien hand syndromeas do people who have had a corpus callosotomy. This reverses the relationship between the right and left hemispheres posited by Jaynes’ proposed bicameralism: It is the left hemisphere that is responsible for speech and the right hemisphere that is responsible for self-awareness. VS Ramachandranin his book The Emerging Mindproposes a similar concept, referring to the left cortical hemisphere as an ” apologist “, and jayns right cortical hemisphere as conscilusness ” revolutionary “.

In his book Neuroreality: Morton, formerly the University of Hawaiisimilarly proposed such a concept. Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist reviews scientific research into the role of the brain’s hemispheres, and cultural evidence, in his conscioussness The Master and His Emissary. McGilchrist, while accepting Jayne’s intention, felt that Jayne’s hypothesis was ” the precise inverse of what happened ” and that rather than a shift from bicameralism there evolved a separation of the hemispheres to bicameralism.

Michael Gazzaniga pioneered the split-brain experiments which led him to propose a similar theory called the left brain interpreter. The Julian Jaynes Society was founded by supporters of bicameralism inshortly after Jaynes’ death.

The society published a collection of essays on bicameralism inwith contributors including psychological anthropologist Brian J.

The book also contains an extensive biography of Julian Jaynes by historian of psychology William Woodward and June Tower, and a foreword by neuroscientist Michael Persinger.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the Westworld episode, see The Bicameral Mind. For other uses, see Bicameralism disambiguation.

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Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. May Learn how and when to remove this template message. Who Obeys and Who Resists When? Muses, Madmen, and Prophets: Rethinking the history, science, and meaning of auditory hallucination.

The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind PDF. Portrait of the Psychologist as a Maverick Theorizer”. American Journal of Psychiatry.