Working from my study of current neuroscience, I have developed a model of the mind and brain that incorporates recent research while still being fundamentally consistent with our everyday ways of thinking and talking about our minds, sometimes called “folk psychology.”
According to this model one can make a fundamental separation between lower-level mental processes, such as perception, memory and emotion, and upper-level mental processes, known as executive processes, which causally interact with the lower-level processes to achieve what we know as our mental lives. Lists of these executive processes, which are implemented by brain networks residing largely in the prefrontal and parietal lobes, typically include planning, attention, task-switching, and inhibition.
Here is a list of problems I have applied the model to. Under each heading, I’ve included links to my main works on that problem.
Mindmelding: Consciousness, Neuroscience, and the Mind’s Privacy (2012)
This book contains a sustained argument for the idea that, contrary to what most thinkers in philosophy and the cognitive sciences believe, it actually is possible for one person to directly experience the mind of another. This can be achieved by connecting one person’s executive network to the highest levels of another person’s perceptual processing.
If this is possible, it implies that the mind lacks the sort of deep metaphysical privacy typically attributed to it, and behaves like any physical thing would.
This has consequences for the traditional mind-body problem, in that it opens the way to understanding the mind as a physical entity, and mental states and processes as physical states and processes.
Capgras syndrome and misidentification
The misidentification syndromes as mindreading disorders (2010).
This paper contains my general account of Capgras syndrome, along with the other misidentification disorders, including Cotard syndrome, and Fregoli syndrome. The central idea is that our brains contain representations of the external features of people who we know, their faces, bodies, and voices, but we also represent their psychological features, including their beliefs, desires, and characteristic emotions. These “internal” representations are damaged or mentally inaccessible to the person with Capgras syndrome, causing the appearance of an unfamiliar mind inside a familiar body.
Responsible Brains: Neuroscience, Law, and Human Culpability (2018)
This book contains a description of the executive theory of responsibility, according to which the presence or absence of the right sorts of executive processing are necessary before a person is responsible for crimes or other wrongs.
Ethics and the brains of psychopaths: The significance of psychopathy for our ethical and legal theories (2014).
The responsibility of psychopaths for the harms that they cause varies with the strength of their executive processing.
Brain Fiction: Self-Deception and the Riddle of Confabulation (2005)
This book contains my two-factor account of confabulation. The first factor involves the production of an ill-grounded memory or perception. The second factor involves the failure of the executive processes to correct that memory or perception.