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The Self-Centred Brain – Professor Glyn Humphreys & Jie Sui

Seeing the self! New research from the University of Oxford indicates that the brain can be rapidly re-configured to respond to stimuli that are related to ourselves rather than to other people.

We have developed a new learning procedure in which we have individuals associate a shape to themselves or to others. Almost immediately after forming this association, individuals show a very large bias towards responding to their own newly associated shape compared with shapes linked to other people. They also need less contrast to perceive self-associated shapes compared to other shapes, indicating that self-association produces a perceptual change in the way that stimuli are seen.

These changes in perception are related to altered connectivity within the brain in which regions associated with self processing (in the mid sections at the front of the brain) have increased linkage with areas more towards the back of the brain which respond to salient stimuli in the environment.

The work indicates that linkages between self-oriented processes and attention shifts the ‘social saliency’ of stimuli, so that they then become important for our attention.

In this way we are tuned to attend to self-related information in the environment.

“The irresponsible self: Self bias changes the way we see the world” is the title of the 2013 Wellcome Lecture in Neuroethics 2013 which will take place on 27th November 2013 5:00pm-7:00pm at the Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School, Broad St, Oxford, UK.

The event is presented by The Oxford Centre for Neuroethics & International Neuroethics Society, the lecture is a public event, all welcome. Booking not required.

About Glyn Humphreys

Glyn Humphreys
Glyn Humphreys is Watts Professor and Head of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University. His work concerns the control of visual attention by both perceptual and social factors.

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