I move, therefore I am: A new theoretical framework to investigate agency and ownership

Consciousness and Cognition 17 (2):411 - 424 (2008)
Abstract
The neurocognitive structure of the acting self has recently been widely studied, yet is still perplexing and remains an often confounded issue in cognitive neuroscience, psychopathology and philosophy. We provide a new systematic account of two of its main features, the sense of agency and the sense of ownership, demonstrating that although both features appear as phenomenally uniform, they each in fact are complex crossmodal phenomena of largely heterogeneous functional and (self-)representational levels. These levels can be arranged within a gradually evolving, onto- and phylogenetically plausible framework which proceeds from basic non-conceptual sensorimotor processes to more complex conceptual and meta-representational processes of agency and ownership, respectively. In particular, three fundamental levels of agency and ownership processing have to be distinguished: The level of feeling, thinking and social interaction. This naturalistic account will not only allow to ‘‘ground the self in action”, but also provide an empirically testable taxonomy for cognitive neuroscience and a new tool for disentangling agency and ownership disturbances in psychopathology (e.g. alien hand, anarchic hand, anosognosia for one’s own hemiparesis).
Keywords consciousness  sense of agency  owership
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