Contrast two types of people.
Person A is highly independent, self reliant, dispassionate,
skeptical, analytical—one who demands to think for himself or herself
and makes decisions only after much deliberation. Person B is impulsive, highly suggestible, and is directed
by "The Collective
Cognitive Imperative." People
like person B often allow their beliefs and behavior to be influenced
and directed by the suggestions of others, instead of thinking for
themselves. Such people are
much more likely to "go along with the crowd," succumb to peer
pressure, be manipulated, hypnotized, recruited as followers /
disciples, or brainwashed than less suggestible individuals.
Forceful, charismatic individuals and those in positions of
authority—including cult or gang leaders, politicians, salespeople,
etc.—will prey on people like person B.
Among such people we find the mentally unbalanced: schizophrenics
and those who hallucinate and hear voices. Occasionally these people
will be featured in news stories explaining that they did something
because they heard the voice of God telling them to do it.
(Recall Andrea Yates' account of killing her children.)
The above contrast suggests some fundamental difference in the
brains of these people and leads to a hypothesis: person A is more left
brain dominant, person B more right brain dominant. Consider a related
theory (see Figures #15a and 15b) advanced by Princeton
psychology professor Julian Jaynes in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of
the Bicameral Mind. Modern
humans, to some degree, still possess remnants of an ancient (right
brain dominated) mentality called the bicameral mind.
His book describes the mentality that supposedly existed long ago
before modern human consciousness fully emerged.
Not just lacking in analytical thinking skills, ancient people
were unable to introspect. Instead
they heard voices, just as some still do today.
The voices told them what to do when new circumstances were
encountered or in times of stress.
These inner voices, heard as actual real voices and believed to
be voices of gods, had their origin in the once heard voices of parents,
dead relatives, leaders, kings, or other authority figures.
Simply put, one side of their brains produced voices, which
commanded. The other side heard them and obeyed.
Supposedly, in response to the development of language and
writing, the bicameral mind slowly died out and was replaced by modern
consciousness—the transition being nearly complete by the first
millennium BCE. Jaynes used
passages from ancient literature—the Old Testament of the Bible,
Homer's epic poems Illiad and Odyssey—to document this
book has been controversial and thought-provoking.
As one commentator put it, "If Jaynes'
theories are right, he could become the Darwin of the mind."
Three decades after its
evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins gave his opinion: "It
is one of those books that is either complete rubbish or a work of
consummate genius, nothing in between!"
While not necessarily accepting Jaynes' basic thesis, many would
dispute the "complete rubbish" characterization.
Particularly relevant in explaining specific examples
of the contemporary behavior of highly suggestible people is what Jaynes
calls "The General Bicameral Paradigm."
He describes this as "a hypothesized structure behind a
large class of phenomena of diminished consciousness which are
interpreted as partial holdovers from an earlier mentality."
It consists of 1) the collective cognitive imperative—which demands the suggestible person accept the belief system and
culturally agreed on expectancy before joining the group, and defines
the roles that must be acted out, 2) the induction process—the ritualized procedure that narrows consciousness by requiring that
one's focus be directed to something,
3) the trance—the
susceptible person's response to the first two in which voluntary
action is greatly suppressed or lacking altogether as our person
replaces his or her former identity with another more acceptable to the
group, and 4) the archaic authorization to whom the trance is
directed—a god, God, a leader or authority figure accepted by the
group, and who, by the collective cognitive imperative, is perceived as
being responsible for the trance.
This paradigm can be used to understand how and why certain
people—those who long for absolute guidance and external
control—join cults, follow fundamentalist preachers or demagogues, are
manipulated by advertisers and authoritative media voices (see Figure
#15c), or generally engage in related non-thinking, stimulus-response
#15a (Adapted from www.julianjaynes.org)
Figure #15b: Evidence for Jaynes' Theory
in primitive societies
practices in ancient civilizations: living hallucinated
voices, commands of those now dead
use of oracles and divination after most people no longer heard voices
idols and figurines believed to be actual gods and served to elicit hallucinations
Linguistics: evolution of the words psyche, thumos, noos
in ancient Greek. Consciousness-related
language not found in the
older sections of Iliad
Old Testament of the Bible
Linguistics: evolution of shi (to
mean impersonator of dead ancestor)
in ancient Chinese
can function like two independent persons.
left brain language links, research
shows the right brain also has language ability
show right temporal-parietal lobe activity in auditory hallucinations
temporal lobe epilepsy & excitation linked w/ increased
religiosity ==>"God" experience
brain dominant for putting rhythm in language bolsters Jaynes'
description. The right hemisphere--negative emotion link supports voices
hallucinated often being critical
schizophrenics' auditory hallucinations often of a critical nature
% of schizophrenics experience "command hallucinations"
hallucinations are more common in the
than once was
in ancient times and in primitive tribes much different from
modification of consciousness / behavioral control.
and hallucinations in religious figures—seen as vestiges of bicameral
mind. Language required for
consciousness as Jaynes narrowly defines this term
of a Couch Potato
come home from a hard day at work and crash in front of the television.
Every so often "that man comes on to tell me." So often
that I now carry voices around in my head: advertising messages,
jingles, slogans, PR, etc. When
I'm shop-ping I sometimes involuntarily re trieve one of them. If I
didn't know where it came from, I
might think I was hearing the voice of God offering guidance.
That may be an exaggeration--but it often seems there is an
authoritative voice in my head telling me what to buy.
A pusher wanting me to stay addicted to a consumerist lifestyle.