Term Paper Topics

Bicameral Mind

Why would people interpret their thoughts as hearing the “voices of the gods” to deal with the world?

Were the brains of bicameral people different from those of modern people with subjective consciousness?

How were bicameral civilizations structured to give social support to the hallucinated voices of the gods?

Is the difference between modern introspective consciousness and the ancient bicameral mind a difference in the "software" or the "hardware" of the brain?

Jaynes focuses on Western civilization; does his theory apply to Eastern civilizations, particularly India and China?

When people hear voices when just waking or going to sleep, does that mean we still have residues of the bicameral mind?

What is the relationship between modern split-brain patients and ancient bicameral man?

What are the implications of Jaynes’s theory for our understanding of modern schizophrenia?

Were all ancient people schizophrenic?

What can we learn from autistics about introspective consciousness?

Why in some cases does the right hemisphere say good things and sometimes bad things?

What caused the breakdown of the bicameral mind? If there was not a physiological change to bring about the end of the bicameral mind, then what initiated it? Why didn't it take place 2,000 years before that, or 10,000 years before that, or 10,000 years after that?

Why does the theory have to apply to every group of people in the world if the bicameral mind and consciousness are cultural inventions?

Child Psychology

Before a child can use language, is the child is not conscious?

Do children go through a bicameral phase in their development?

Why and when does consciousness occur in children?


Did the role of conscience change between the bicameral period and consciousness?


What is consciousness not?

How much of the misunderstanding and/or controversy surrounding Jaynes’s theory involves semantics concerning the term "consciousness?"

Did consciousness develop from the bicameral mind because consciousness makes us “fitter” for biological survival? Or is consciousness simply a spin-off of other developments, and not selected-for?

How is consciousness related to activity in the brain?

Might some sculptors, painters, and particularly composers dispute the idea that language is required for consciousness?

What is the future of consciousness? What is the next stage beyond consciousness?

Which thinkers other than those cited by Jaynes support the idea that human consciousness is a recent historical development, or that it was a social (as opposed to evolutionary) phenomenon spurred by the development of language?

Critiques / Response to the Theory

What are the criticisms of Jaynes’s theory? Describe its weak points.

Has the criticism of Jaynes’s theory differed depending upon whether the critic is in a scientific discipline, as opposed to the humanities?

Why is the theory controversial?

Has there been a growing movement toward or away from acceptance of Jaynes’s views?


What are dreams in Jaynes’s theory?

Can introspection occur in dreams?

Do animals dream?


How does Jaynes define thought and feeling? What is Jaynes’s “two-tiered” approach to emotions?

Evidence: Cave Art, Pyramids, Burials, Neurological, etc.

What relevance do the cave drawings in Lascaux have to Jaynes’s theory?

If the pharaohs who built the pyramids of Egypt as their tombs were thinking ahead to their afterlife, does that imply consciousness?

What is the significance of the presence of symbolic objects in graves?

What recent physiological research bears on Jaynes’s theory?

Does Jaynes’s theory try to explain too much, and end up forcing the evidence to fit the theory?

How has your encounter with Jaynes’s theory changed your understanding of your own consciousness?


Was there humor in the bicameral period? Can humor be found in the Hebrew Scriptures (“Old Testament”)?


What is the relationship between language and consciousness?

What are the implications of Jaynes’s theory for inter-species language, and what are the consequences for the possibility of other species learning language?


Is there a place for morality in the bicameral mind?

Do stories of deception in the Bible occur predominantly in earlier or later books?


Pain appears to be conscious, and ancient people and animals surely feel pain. Does this refute Jaynes’s theory that only post-bicameral humans are conscious?


What is the Documentary Hypothesis, and how does its arrangement of the chronological order of biblical books dovetail with Jaynes’s theory of the breakdown of the bicameral mind and the emergence of consciousness?

How does Jaynes’s theory imply a distinction between “religious” experience before the rise of consciousness, and “religious” experience after the rise of consciousness?

Does Jaynes’s theory lead to the inevitable conclusion that in bicameral times, a powerful elite controlled the theocratic structure and used the "fiction" of the voices of gods as means of maintaining power and control?


Can a being be unconscious and still have a concept of “self?”


Does this theory relate to psychotherapy in any way?


If consciousness is learned from generation to generation, does this imply that there are bicameral groups today — hunter-gatherer societies, for example? Are the primitive societies of today bicameral societies, based on Jaynes’s theory?

Additional Topics

Metaphors in scientific discovery

Learning without consciousness

The neural substrate of the sense of time

Jaynesian Implications of lateralization in functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

The mental experience before and after they acquire language, of people who are born unable to hear

Spatial imagery versus visual imagery of those who have been unable to see from birth, and changes (if any) after sight has been surgically facilitated

Daydreams and dreams of those who have been unable to see from birth

Dreams as a right hemisphere phenomenon

Animal dreams

A cross-cultural survey of mind words

Remembering dreams

Swearing as a right hemisphere function

The metaphors of religious exhortation

The neurology of hallucinations

Narratization, memory, and eyewitness testimony

Mind in early and late passages in the Hebrew Scriptures (“Old Testament”)

The rise of ethics in the first millennium, B.C.

The origin of law

Translation problems in Bible studies

The self in different cultures

The self at different ages

How young children talk about past and future events