Scientists have found evidence that humans can experience self-delusion and even self-transcendence, according to a paper published online Wednesday.
The findings offer a new way of thinking about the human mind and the ability to see beyond our own experiences to explore and transform the world.
The paper, by a group of psychologists and neuroscientists at The University of California, Berkeley, and published in the journal Psychological Science, argues that our brains can produce “psychic-like states” in response to situations that may not appear to be real.
In other words, the brain might become more “conscious” as it encounters new things, according the paper.
The researchers have found similar results in people with Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, depression, and other conditions, which are associated with impaired memory and cognition.
They argue that “the self is a natural and integral part of consciousness.”
The researchers also note that the brain’s ability to produce “mental states” is not unique to humans.
It can be produced in other animals and in some types of plants.
What’s more, there is evidence that the human brain can produce self-perceptions about the world that are “similar to the experiences of other animals,” the paper states.
In some cases, humans can even perceive what others see.
For example, people can experience that they are walking through a forest or walking on a beach, according a paper written by the authors.
However, the research does not show that people are capable, for instance, of “perceiving reality in the physical world.”
“There is some evidence that people can sense the world through the senses and that these sensations are perceived by others,” the researchers wrote.
“The idea that the world can be understood from the perspective of our minds is a common assumption among philosophers and psychologists.”
“This has led us to question whether we are in a ‘superior’ or ‘minor’ mode of thinking,” they wrote.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.