The Art and Science of Recognising Yourself

Wellcome Trust Blog

 "Images taken from the Testing of #MarkBoulos' Echo, held at LABAN, July 2013. " "(All) image(s) by Joe Plommer"As a new art installation by Mark Boulos, Echo, explores the nature of self-recognition and representation, his collaborator, Cognitive Neuroscientist Professor Olaf Blanke, explains a little more about the subject: how and when we are able to recognise ourselves, our artistic representation and experience of self portraits, and what happens when something goes wrong.

An early morning just-before-work shave seems to be a trivial activity, yet how can you be sure it is yourself that you are shaving?

Although there’s an intuitive response to this daft question, the mechanisms underlying self-recognition are complex and elaborate. Children’s understanding of mirrors comes fairly late in development (between months 15 and 24) and can show striking disparities. A child can recognise herself, passing the mark test (reaching to a trace of paint that is only noticeable when looking in a mirror), and then suddenly ask why ‘she’ is wearing the same jacket…

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Author: Shane O'Mara

Neuroscientist

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