The "bicameral mind" 30 years on: a critical reappraisal of Julian Jaynes' hypothesis

Funct Neurol. 2007 Jan-Apr;22(1):11-5.


In 1976 Julian Jaynes published his controversial book The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, introducing the hypothesis of a two-chambered brain-mind model that preceded the evolutionary development of the conscious mind. Jaynes' speculative model gave rise to a huge debate, which has reverberated throughout the current neuroscientific and neurophilosophical literature. Has the bicameral mind stood the test of time? To answer this question, the present paper adopts a multidisciplinary perspective and, after briefly summarizing Jaynes' hypothesis, addresses two main critical issues: the neurological basis of the bicameral model and the philological accuracy of Jaynes' arguments. Finally, the concept of a non-unitary Self is presented as one of the most relevant contemporary legacies of the bicameral mind.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Consciousness / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Models, Psychological
  • Neurosciences / history*
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Self Concept*

Personal name as subject

  • Julian Jaynes