September 19, 2010
Brain Area Key For Introspection

If you do a lot of introspecting you probably have a big anterior prefrontal cortex behind your eyes.

A specific region of the brain appears to be larger in individuals who are good at turning their thoughts inward and reflecting upon their decisions, according to new research published in the journal Science. This act of introspection—or "thinking about your thinking"—is a key aspect of human consciousness, though scientists have noted plenty of variation in peoples' abilities to introspect.

The new study will be published in the 17 September issue of the journal Science. Science is published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

In light of their findings, this team of researchers, led by Prof. Geraint Rees from University College London, suggests that the volume of gray matter in the anterior prefrontal cortex of the brain, which lies right behind our eyes, is a strong indicator of a person's introspective ability. Furthermore, they say the structure of white matter connected to this area is also linked to this process of introspection.

The researchers claim to have measured introspection by asking study participants to express a probability of whether they were right for problems they had to solve. Click thru to read the details. I'm not sure their method of measuring introspection ability is a good measure of that ability.

What I'd like to know: How strong is the correlation between anterior prefrontal cortex size and IQ? Do there exist many high-IQ people who have low capacity for introspection? Are these people marked by a greater tendency to express certainty? Would the introspection ability measured by these researchers correlate with certainty that people express about their past decisions or about their positions on political questions?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 September 19 09:39 AM  Brain Personality

matthew f. said at September 19, 2010 10:10 AM:

I introspect a lot, have an iq of 140 (wechsler) and am pretty sure I am a poor at introspecting efficiently.

The best reason I have for this was a cognitive test where I took a lot more time to get the answers right. I got a lot right of course, and there is a clear time V. correct relationship, but I expect myself to be on the extreme end given my iq. I never saw my own data, so perhaps poor introspection correlates with self-doubt.

Aron said at September 19, 2010 11:40 AM:

Is that a big anterior prefrontal cortex or are you just happy to see yourself?

Lono said at September 20, 2010 8:18 AM:

I have a measured IQ of 145 and I have and I am extremely introspective.

I have not found a significant positive correlation between introspection and IQ - amongst my acquaintances in Mensa - but perhaps I do notice that those who do seem to be introspective are exceptionally introspective like myself.

Too much introspection, like to high an IQ, can at times be a bit disadvantageous in modern civilization.

Scientific American just had an excellent special issue on Psychopathic brain dysfunction - and about new tests that can more easily positively identify such dysfunction in an individual - and I feel confident that in the near future we will be able to better classify people's abilities and disabilities through an analysis of their brain structure and function while undertaking clinical tests.

I find one of the most difficult things in my life has been my difficulty in relating to those who have low levels of empathy and/or introspection - although I am sure there is more than likely a strong correlation between these two characteristics in mammals.

To me – if people had my levels of empathy and introspection – then we would already be living in a Utopian paradise – that’s why I continue to stand on the assertion that I would be extremely comfortable with the production of around a billion clones of myself – as there would be no effective downside that I can foresee.

It always shocks me that most others I have spoken with would not even want five copies of themselves – do people really have such low opinions of themselves? – I’m no saint but I’d trust my identically natured clones implicitly – who wouldn’t want that!?!!

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