Pictures of Ourselves

P.N. Johnson-Laird

  • Consciousness Regained: Chapters in the Development of Mind by Nicholas Humphrey
    Oxford, 222 pp, £12.95, September 1983, ISBN 0 19 217732 X

During World War Two, my father was walking out of a greengrocer’s shop in London when a flying bomb crashed and exploded nearby. The blast swept him off his feet, but he was otherwise unhurt. He picked himself up with the aid of a passing policeman, got into his car and drove off. Some time later, as he described it, he ‘came to’ to find himself driving along in a part of London totally unfamiliar to him and with no awareness of how he had come to be there. As a result of shock, he had evidently been driving on some sort of ‘automatic pilot’ much as certain epileptic patients display automatic behaviour after they have had a seizure. At the time, it made a deep impression on me that one could do something as complicated as driving a car without any apparent consciousness of what one was doing.

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