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Copyright (c) 2008 Willamette Law Review
Willamette Law Review

ARTICLE: BRAIN EVOLUTION AND HUMAN COGNITION: THE ACCIDENTAL MIND*

Fall, 2008

Willamette Law Review

45 Willamette L. Rev. 17

Author

David J. Linden**

Excerpt



I'd like to speak with you about brain evolution. You are probably thinking, "Why should I care about brain evolution? Sure, I might care about brain function and human cognition as it impacts legal and societal thought. But why should I care about how the brain got that way? I just care about the way it is now." I hope to convince you that you can only care about the way it is now, and the most human and central aspects of the way it is now through an evolutionary story.

It's 1975 and we're in the laboratory of Dr. Larry Weiskrantz at the University of Oxford. Larry is studying a population of patients who are blind, not as a result of direct damage to their eyes, but because, at some point in life, they had a blow or a stroke that impacted the visual cortex, the region at the back of the brain that processes visual information. These folks are utterly blind in their daily life. They report no perceptual abilities.

Weiskrantz did what was, on the face of it, a useless experiment. He put a letter in the hands of these folks, and in front of them was a mail slot. The mail slot was oriented either horizontally or vertically, and he asked them to insert the letters into the slot. The subjects replied, "What are you talking about? We are completely blind; what a waste of time; I do not have any idea; I would ...
 
 
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