The Reflected Face as a Mask of the Self: An Appraisal of the Psychological and Neuroscientific Research About Self-face Recognition

Topoi 41 (4):715-730 (2022)
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This study reviews research about the recognition of one’s own face and discusses scientific techniques to investigate differences in brain activation when looking at familiar faces compared to unfamiliar ones. Our analysis highlights how people do not possess a perception of their own face that corresponds precisely to reality, and how the awareness of one’s face can also be modulated by means of the enfacement illusion. This illusion allows one to maintain a sense of self at the expense of a precise discrimination of self-face. The internal dynamics of different brain processes, associated with the construction of bodily identity and the sense of self and capable of integrating signals from different sensory channels, particularly visual and tactile, create a mirror-mask effect. According to this effect, the self-face reflected by a mirror becomes a mask for the self, which has the features of the subject’s face, but nonetheless does not correspond perfectly to its characteristics. This poses interesting questions about the nature and construction of one’s self, as self-face reflections allow the mind to mediate between analogue and virtual reality, between past and future events, between memories and plans of action and, most importantly, between beliefs about our identities.



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The Theory of Moral Sentiments.Adam Smith - 1759 - Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. Edited by Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya.
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The Principles of Psychology.William James - 1890 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 11 (3):506-507.

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