Alva Noe believes that the field of neuroscience was incorrect to search for the source of the human mind and consciousness inside the human brain. The individual’s consciousness exists from our body and brain’s interaction with its environment. Shaped by its environment physically and culturally, each person is affected by his/her location and the people in the community/population. In Noe’s book, Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons From the Biology of Consciousness, he firmly believes
“the brain is not the locus of consciousness inside us because consciousness has no locus inside us. Consciousness is not something that happens inside us: it is something that we do, actively, in our dynamic interaction with the world around us” (p. 24).
This theory is parallel to the “chamber of consciousness” concept that James discusses in “The Art of Fiction.” James emphasizes our perceptions as the medium of between our consciousness and environments instead of assigning this sieve-like role to the brain.
While Noe demonstrates how consciousness exists through the individual’s interaction with the environment, Nancy Easterlin proposes the theory of humans and their individual emotional attachment to their environments in her essay “Cognitive Ecocriticism: Human Wayfinding, Sociality, and Literary Interpretation.” Easterlin defines the environment as:
“a distinctly human concept, not a stable, concrete entity, and its meaning is context dependent.”
The environment is not limited to a physical location; it extends to the different components that make the environment such as feeling, familiarity, and human interaction. The specific intimate connection that individuals have with their environment extends back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Easterlin asserts that:
“Humans are a markedly social species; the development of strong emotional attachments from infancy onward encourages them to seek a physical proximity to others, promoting individual and group bonds and behavior that were crucial to our hunter-gatherer ancestors.”
It is an innate need to belong to an environment. If an individual no longer feels comfortable in his or her environment, a change has to be made. This need for change corresponds with James’s idea of consciousness and its dynamic. In his ghost stories, James portrays the disturbances of the individual in its environment with a ghost. The ghost is not an independent, supernatural being that commits the haunting. The ghost is a creation and embodiment of what haunts the individual.