The Sense of Agency in Psychology and Neuropsychology

  • Michela Balconi


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.


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.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia 2010

Authors and Affiliations

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

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