A problem for Wegner and colleagues' model of the sense of agency

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9 (3):341-357 (2010)
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Abstract

The sense of agency, that is the sense that one is the agent of one’s bodily actions, is one component of our self-consciousness. Recently, Wegner and colleagues have developed a model of the causal history of this sense. Their model takes it that the sense of agency is elicited for an action when one infers that one or other of one’s mental states caused that action. In their terms, the sense of agency is elicited by the inference to apparent mental state causation. Here, I argue that this model is inconsistent with data from developmental psychology that suggests children can identify the agent behind an action without being capable of understanding the relationship between their intentions and actions. Furthermore, I argue that this model is inconsistent with the preserved sense of agency in autism. In general, the problem is that there are cases where subjects can experience themselves as the agent behind their actions despite lacking the resources to make the inference to apparent mental state causation

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Glenn Carruthers
Macquarie University (PhD)