Advertisement

The Sense of Agency in Psychology and Neuropsychology

  • Michela Balconi

Abstract

The sense of agency is an increasingly prominent field of research in psychology and the cognitive neurosciences. In this chapter, awareness of action is distinguished from the sense of agency, since they represent different elements of self-awareness and self-monitoring in action execution. Nevertheless, both contribute to causing or generating an action or a certain thought in the stream of consciousness. Here, we offer a causal explanation of action and address the mechanisms behind the conscious control of action, as they occur under normal and pathological conditions. Specifically, we consider the theoretical and empirical implications of the sense of agency for consciousness, self-consciousness, and action. The main question is how do I know that I am the person who is moving? Psychology and the neuroscience of action have shown the existence of specific cognitive processes allowing the organism to refer the cause or origin of an action to its agent [1]. This sense of agency has been defined as the sense that I am the one who is causing or generating an action or a certain thought in my stream of consciousness [2]. As such, one can distinguish actions that are self-generated from those that are generated by others, giving rise to the experience of a self-other distinction in the domain of action which, in turn, contributes to the subjective phenomenon of self-consciousness.

Keywords

Motor Imagery Supplementary Motor Area Sensory Feedback Conscious Experience Conscious Awareness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. 1.
    Georgieff N, Jeannerod M (1998) Beyond consciousness of external reality: a “Who” system for consciousness of action and self-consciousness. Conscious Cogn 7:465–477CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Gallagher S (2000) Phylosophical conceptions of the self: implications for cognitive science. Trends Cogn Sci 4:14–21CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Vogeley K, Kupke C (2007) Disturbances of time consciousness from a phenomenological and a neuroscientific perspective. Schizophrenia Bull 33:157–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Marcel AJ (2003) The sense of agency: awareness and ownership of action. In: Roessler J, Eilan N (eds) Agency and self-awareness: issues in philosophy and psychology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 48–93Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Searle J (1983) Intentionality. Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Jeannerod M (2006) Motor cognition. Oxford University Press, United Kingdom OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Balconi M, Santucci E (2008) Neuropsychological processes of motor imagery compared with motor scripts and action verbs. ERPs applied to motor representation. Proceedings of the First Meeting of the Federation of the European Societies of Neuropsychology (ESN), United Kingdom Edinburgh, pp 139Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Dennett DC (1991) Consciousness Explained. Little, Brown and Company, BostonGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Jeannerod M (2009) The sense of agency and its disturbances in schizophrenia: a reappraisal. Exp Brain Res 192:527–532CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Wegner DM (2002) The illusion of conscious will. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Daprati E, Franck N, Georgieff N et al (1997) Looking for the agent: an investigation into consciousness of action and self-consciousness in schizophrenic patients. Cognition 65:71–86CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Nielsen T (1963) Volition: a new experimental approach. Scan J Psychol 4:225–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Slachevsky A, Pillon B, Fourneret P et al (2001) Preserved adjustment but impaired awareness in a sensory-motor conflict following prefrontal lesion. J Cognitive Neurosci 13:332–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Fourneret P, Jeannerod M (1998) Limited conscious monitoring of motor performance in normal subjects. Neuropsychologia 36:1133–1140CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Vosgerau G, Newen A (2007) Thoughts, motor actions, and the self. Mind Lang 22:22–43Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Frith CD, Blakemore SJ, Wolpert DM (2000) Abnormalities in the awareness and control of action. Philos T R Soc Lon B 355:1771–1788CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Blakemore SJ, Wolpert DM, Frith CD (2001) The cerebellum is involved in predicting the sensory consequences of action. Neuroreport 12:1879–1884CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Blakemore SJ, Wolpert DM, Frith CD (1998) Central cancellation of self-produced tickle sensation. Nat Neurosci 1:635–640CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Frith CD (1992) The cognitive neuropsychology of schizophrenia. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, HoveGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Synofzik M, Vosgerau G, Newen A (2008) Beyond the comparator model: a multifactorial two-step account of agency. Conscious Cogn 17:219–239CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    David N, Newen A, Vogeley K (2008) The “sense of agency” and its underlying cognitive and neural mechanism. Conscious Cogn 17:523–534CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Goldman AI (1989) Interpretation psychologized. Mind Lang 4:161–185Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Humphrey N (1992) A history of the mind. Simon & Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Wegner DM (2005) Who is the controller of the controlled processes? In: Hassin R, Uleman JS, Bargh JA (eds) The new unconscious. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 9–36Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Pacherie M (2008) The phenomenology of action: a conceptual framework. Cognition 107:179–217CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Haggard P, Clark S (2003) Intentional action: conscious experience and neural prediction. Conscious Cogn 12:695–707CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Haggard P, Clark S, Kalogeras J (2002) Voluntary action and conscious awareness. Nat Neurosci 5:382–385CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Wegner DM, Wheatley T (1999) Apparent mental causation. Sources of the experience of will. Am Psychol 54:480–492CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Haggard P (2003) Conscious awareness of intention and of action. In: Roessler J, Elian N (eds) Agency and self-awareness: issues in philosophy and psychology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 111–127Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Wegner DM, Sparrow B (2004) Authorship processing. In: Gazzaniga MS (ed) The new cognitive neuroscience, 3rd edition. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 1201–1209Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Cunnington R, Windischberger C, Robinson S, Moser E (2006) The selection of intended actions and the observation of other’ actions: a time-resolved fMRI study. Neuroimage 29:1294–1302CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Frith CD (2005) The self in action: lessons from delusions of control. Conscious Cogn 14:752–770CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Grèzes J, Decety J (2002) Does visual perception afford action? Evidence from a neuroimaging study. Neuropsychologia 40:212–222CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Jeannerod M (1994) The hand and the object: the role of posterior parietal cortex in forming motor representations. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 72:535–541PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Jeannerod M (2003b) Consciousness of actionand self-consciousness: a cognitive neuroscience approach. In: Roessler J, Elian N (eds) Agency and self-awareness: Issues in philosophy and psychology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 128–149Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Kühn S, Brass M (2009) Retrospective construction of the judgement of free choice. Conscious Cogn 18:12–21CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Wolpert DM, Ghahramani Z (2000) Computational principles of movement neuroscience. Nat Neurosci 3:1212–1217CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Pronin E, Wegner DM, McCarthy K, Rodriguez S (2006) Everyday magical powers: the role of apparent mental causation in the overestimation of personal influence. J Pers Soc Psychol 91:218–231CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Castiello U, Paulignan Y, Jeannerod M (1991) Temporal dissociation of motor responses and subjective awareness: a study in normal subjects. Brain 114:2639–2655CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Libet B (1985) Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action. Behav Brain Sci 8:529–566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Libet B, Gleason CA, Wright EW, Pearl DK (1983) Time of conscious intention to act in relation to onset of cerebral activities (readiness potential): the unconscious initiation of a freely voluntary act. Brain 106:623–642CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Sirigu A, Daprati E, Ciancia S et al (2004) Altered awareness of voluntary action after damage to the parietal cortex. Nat Neurosci 7:80–84CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Naccache L, Dehaene S, Habert MO et al (2005) Effortless control: executive attention and conscious feeling of mental effort are dissociable. Neuropsychologia 43:1318–1328CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Metzinger T (2000) The subjectivity of subjective experience: a representationalist analysis of the first-person perspective. In: Metzinger V (ed) Neural correlates of consciousness. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 285–306Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Shafer WP, Marcus MM (1973) Self-stimulation alters human sensory brain responses. Science 181:175–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Blakemore SJ, Rees G, Frith CD (1998) How do we predict the consequences of our actions? A functional imaging study. Neuropsychologia 36:521–529CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    O’Brien L (2003) On knowing one’s own actions. In: Roessler J, Elian N (eds) Agency and self-awareness: issues in philosophy and psychology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 358–382Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Dokic J (2003) The sense of ownership: an analogy between sensation and action. In: Roessler J, Elian N (eds) Agency and self-awareness: issues in philosophy and psychology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 321–344Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Gallagher S (2008) Direct perception in the intersubjective context. Conscious Cogn 17:535–543CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Gopnik A, Meltzoff AN (1997) Words, thoughts, and theories. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Scholl BJ, Tremoulet PD (2000) Perceptual causality and animacy. Trends Cogn Sci 4:299–309CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Rizzolatti G, Fadiga L, Gallese V, Fogassi L (1996) Premotor cortex and the recognition of motor actions. Cognitive Brain Res 3:131–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michela Balconi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMilanItaly

Personalised recommendations