Our brains trick us into thinking consciousness can reside outside the body, new Northeastern research says

The origins of consciousness have been debated by philosophers for centuries.

Each conscious person has a sense of “being me,” which invariably gives rise to the question of where that sense originated — from within or outside the body, says Northeastern University psychology professor Iris Berent.

“How do human brains give rise to this experience? That’s the big mystery, right?” she says.

Influential philosopher David Chalmers famously won a bet in 2023 for claiming consciousness exists beyond the merely physical, Berent says.

But she says the question of where consciousness exists is a false one — and she has a new paper that presents her position.

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Illustration by Renee Zhang/Northeastern University

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