Macquarie University
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Exploring the Foundations of the Minimal Self: A Theoretical Synthesis

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posted on 2024-03-18, 22:02 authored by Amber Bunting

The minimal self has been defined as the pre-reflective sense of being a subject of experience (Gallagher, 2000). This thesis aimed to lay out a theoretical foundation which enables the progression of minimal self studies by identifying, organising, and synthesising existing and potential theoretical frameworks. In the first chapter, a scoping review identified mechanistic theories of minimal selfhood and categorised them according to their conceptual approach. Notably, this study highlighted the trend towards predictive theories of minimal selfhood and elucidated its definitional and conceptual variations. The second chapter introduced a way to refine minimal self theories and hypotheses, partly based on a neuropsychological approach to psychedelics and meditation. This approach was proposed to circumvent two major challenges within the minimal self literature. One challenge is caused by a conflation between self-related and self-specifying data. Another challenge is the difficulty in distinguishing between enabling conditions and core mechanisms within neuroimaging data. These issues hinder the endeavour of identifying the minimally necessary processes which generate minimal selfhood. To address these issues, this study proposed integrating knowledge on meditative non-dual awareness and psychedelic ego-dissolution as genuine minimal self disruptions. The common, context-independent neural changes found across both cases can guide more specific data analysis and the development of meaningful hypotheses. An application demonstrated this approach and provided three testable hypotheses. Taken together, both studies raised specific recommendations for the future design of experimental studies of minimal selfhood, and implications related to minimal self theory evaluation and refinement.


Table of Contents

Exploring the Foundations of the Minimal Self: A Theoretical Synthesis -- Chapter 1. A Scoping Review of Mechanistic Theories of the Minimal Self -- Chapter 2. Integrating Psychedelics and Meditation Knowledge Towards Understanding Core Mechanisms Underlying Minimal Selfhood -- General Discussion -- Appendix

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Master of Research

Department, Centre or School

School of Psychological Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Vince Polito

Additional Supervisor 1

Erik Reichle


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




115 pages

Former Identifiers

AMIS ID: 324849

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