A Tale of Two Perspectives: How Psychology and Neuroscience Contribute to Understanding Personhood
Keywordsself, identity, psychological essentialism, intuitive dualism, neuroscience, philosophy
Empirical science, such as psychology and neuroscience, employ diverse methods to develop data driven models and explanations for complex phenomena. In research on the self, differences in these methods produce different depictions of persons. Research in developmental psychology highlights the role of intuitive beliefs, such as psychological essentialism and intuitive dualism, in individuals’ singular, cohesive, and stable sense of self. On the other hand, research in neuroscience highlights the de-centralized, distributed, multitudes of neural networks in competition making selves, with arguments around whether the interpretation of these data imply that the self is somehow fundamental and special to human functioning. In this paper, I explore these discrepant pictures of the self to advance understanding about personhood. Specifically, I suggest that these divergent pictures of self from psychology and neuroscience have the potential to inform philosophical and theological discussions around personhood by anchoring models of persons in empirical views of persons. Likewise, I explore the opportunity for philosophy and theology to inform and enhance scientific research on the self by critiquing scientific bias and construct development as well as highlighting potential limits in understanding selves with empirical models.
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