The abilities to attribute an action to its proper agent and to understand its meaning when it is produced by someone else are basic aspects of human social communication. Several psychiatric syndromes, such as schizophrenia, seem to lead to a dysfunction of the awareness of one’s own action as well as of recognition of actions performed by other. Such syndromes offer a framework for studying the determinants of agency, the ability to correctly attribute actions to their veridical source. Thirty normal (...) subjects and 30 schizophrenic patients with and without hallucinations and/or delusional experiences were required to execute simple finger and wrist movements, without direct visual control of their hand. The image of either their own hand or an alien hand executing the same or a different movement was presented on a TV-screen in real time. The task for the subjects was to discriminate whether the hand presented on the screen was their own or not. Hallucinating and deluded schizophrenic patients were more impaired in discriminating their own hand from the alien one than the non-hallucinating ones, and tended to misattribute the alien hand to themselves. Results are discussed according to a model of action control. A tentative description of the mechanisms leading to action consciousness is proposed. (shrink)
Does metacognition--the capacity to self-evaluate one's cognitive performance--derive from a mindreading capacity, or does it rely on informational processes? Joëlle Proust draws on psychology and neuroscience to defend the second claim. She argues that metacognition need not involve metarepresentations, and is essentially related to mental agency.
Metacognition is often defined as thinking about thinking. It is exemplified in all the activities through which one tries to predict and evaluate one’s own mental dispositions, states and properties for their cognitive adequacy. This article discusses the view that metacognition has metarepresentational structure. Properties such as causal contiguity, epistemic transparency and procedural reflexivity are present in metacognition but missing in metarepresentation, while open-ended recursivity and inferential promiscuity only occur in metarepresentation. It is concluded that, although metarepresentations can redescribe metacognitive (...) contents, metacognition and metarepresentation are functionally distinct. (shrink)
A prominent but poorly understood domain of human agency is mental action, i.e., thecapacity for reaching specific desirable mental statesthrough an appropriate monitoring of one's own mentalprocesses. The present paper aims to define mentalacts, and to defend their explanatory role againsttwo objections. One is Gilbert Ryle's contention thatpostulating mental acts leads to an infinite regress.The other is a different although related difficulty,here called the access puzzle: How can the mindalready know how to act in order to reach somepredefined result? A (...) crucial element in the solutionof these puzzles consists in making explicit thecontingency between mental acts and mentaloperations, parallel to the contingency betweenphysical acts and bodily movements. The paper finallydiscusses the kind of reflexivity at stake in mentalacts; it is shown that the capacity to refer tooneself is not a necessary condition of the successfulexecution of mental acts. (shrink)
Controlling one's mental agency encompasses two forms of metacognitive operations, self-probing and post-evaluating. Metacognition so defined might seem to fuel an internalist view of epistemic norms, where rational feelings are available to instruct a thinker of what she can do, and allow her to be responsible for her mental agency. Such a view, however, ignores the dynamics of the mind–world interactions that calibrate the epistemic sentiments as reliable indicators of epistemic norms. A 'brain in the lab' thought experiment suggests that (...) an internalist view of epistemic feelings is unable to account for the contrast between norm-tracking, educated sentiments, and illusory feelings. (shrink)
The project of understanding rationality in non-human animals faces a number of conceptual and methodological difficulties. The present chapter defends the view that it is counterproductive to rely on the human folk psychological idiom in animal cognition studies. Instead, it approaches the subject on the basis of dynamic- evolutionary considerations. Concepts from control theory can be used to frame the problem in the most general terms. The specific selective pressures exerted on agents endowed with information-processing capacities are analysed. It is (...) hypothesized that metacognition offers an evolutionary stable response to the various demands of the internal and external flows of information in a competitive environment. Metacognition provides a form of process-reflexivity that can, but does not have to be redeployed through metarepresentations. Finally the claim that rationality so conceived involves normativity is discussed. (shrink)
This paper defends the view that knowledge about one's own intentions can be gained in part through perception, although not through introspection. The various kinds of misperception of one's intentions are discussed. The latter distinction is applied to the analysis of schizophrenic patients' delusion of control.
Granting that various mental events might form the antecedents of an action, what is the mental event that is the proximate cause of action? The present article reconsiders the methodology for addressing this question: Intention and its varieties cannot be properly analyzed if one ignores the evolutionary constraints that have shaped action itself, such as the trade-off between efficient timing and resources available, for a given stake. On the present proposal, three types of action, impulsive, routine and strategic, are designed (...) to satisfy the trade-off above when achieving goals of each type. While actions of the first two types depend on non-conceptual appraisals of a given intensity and valence, strategic intentions have a propositional format and guide action within longer-term executive frameworks involving prospective memory. (shrink)
Perceivers generally show a poor ability to detect changes, a condition referred to as “Change Blindness” . They are, in addition, “blind to their own blindness”. A common explanation of this “Change Blindness Blindness” is that it derives from an inadequate, “photographical” folk-theory about perception. This explanation, however, does not account for intra-individual variations of CBB across trials. Our study aims to explore an alternative theory, according to which participants base their self-evaluations on two activity-dependent cues, namely search time and (...) perceived success in prior trials. These cues were found to influence self-evaluation in two orthogonal ways: success-feedback influenced self-evaluation in a global, contextual way, presumably by recalibrating the norm of adequacy for the task. Search time influenced it in a local way, predicting the success of a given trial from its duration. (shrink)
This chapter examines whether, and in what sense, one can speak of agentive mental events. An adequate characterization of mental acts should respond to three main worries. First, mental acts cannot have pre-specified goal contents. For example, one cannot prespecify the content of a judgment or of a deliberation. Second, mental acts seem to depend crucially on receptive attitudes. Third, it does not seem that intentions play any role in mental actions. Given these three constraints, mental and bodily actions appear (...) to have a significantly different structure. A careful analysis of the role of normative requirements, distinguishing them from instrumental reasons, allows the distinction between mental and bodily forms of action to be clarified. Two kinds of motives must be present for a mental act to develop. The first kind is instrumental: a mental act is performed because of some basic informational need, such as the need to "remember the name of that play". The second kind is normative: given the specific type of mental action performed, there is a specific epistemic norm relevant to that act. These two motives actually correspond to different phases of a single mental act. The first motivates the mental act, i.e. makes salient the corresponding goal. The second offers an evaluation of the feasibility of the act, on the basis of its constitutive normative requirement. Conceived in this way, a characterization of mental acts avoids the three difficulties mentioned above. The possibility of pre-specifying the outcome of epistemic mental acts is blocked by the fact that such acts are constituted by strict normative requirements. That mental acts include receptive features is shown to be a necessary architectural constraint for mental agents to be sensitive to epistemic requirements. Finally, the phenomenology of intending is shown to be absent in most mental acts; the motivational structure of mental acts is, rather, associated with error- signals and self-directed doubtings. Mental acts need to be recognized as a natural kind of action meant to normatively control and enhance cognitive efficiency according to current processing needs. (shrink)
An area in the theory of action that has received little attention is how mental agency and world-directed agency interact. The purpose of the present contribution is to clarify the rational conditions of such interaction, through an analysis of the central case of acceptance. There are several problems with the literature about acceptance. First, it remains unclear how a context of acceptance is to be construed. Second, the possibility of conjoining, in acceptance, an epistemic component, which is essentially mind-to-world, and (...) a utility component, which requires a world-to-mind direction of fit, is merely posited rather than derived from the rational structure of acceptance. Finally, the norm of acceptance is generally seen as related to truth, which turns out to be inapplicable in a number of cases. We will argue, first, that the specific context-dependence of acceptances is derived from their being mental actions, each embedded in a complex hierarchy of acceptances composing, together, a planning sequence. Second, that acceptances come in several varieties, corresponding to the specific epistemic norm(s) that constitute them. The selection of a particular norm for accepting answers to considerations of utility – to the association of an epistemic goal with an encompassing world-directed action. Once a type of acceptance is selected, however, the epistemic norm constitutive for that acceptance strictly applies. Third, we argue that context-dependence superimposes a decision criterion on the output of the initial epistemic acceptance. Strategic acceptance is regulated by instrumental norms of expected utility, which may rationally lead an agent to screen off her initial epistemic acceptance. (shrink)
How should one attribute epistemic credit to an agent, and hence, knowledge, when cognitive processes include an extensive use of human or mechanical enhancers, informational tools, and devices which allow one to complement or modify one's own cognitive system? The concept of integration of a cognitive system has been used to address this question. For true belief to be creditable to a person's ability, it is claimed, the relevant informational processes must be or become part of the cognitive character of (...) the agent, as a result of a process of enculturation. We argue that this view does not capture the role of sensitivity to epistemic norms in forming true beliefs. An analysis of epistemic actions, basic and extended, is proposed as offering an appropriate framework for crediting an agent with knowledge. (shrink)
Experience of agency in patients with schizophrenia involves an interesting dissociation; these patients demonstrate that one can have a thought or perform an action consciously without being conscious of thinking or acting as the motivated agent, author of that thought or of that action. This chapter examines several interesting accounts of this dissociation, and aims at showing how they can be generalized to thought insertion phenomena. It is argued that control theory allows such a generalization; three different comparators need to (...) be distinguished: the sense of subjectivity relies on a comparator in which motivation and emotion play a structuring role. The sense of agency emerges in a system that delivers a rough categorization of self-generated – versus other- generated – actions and mental activities. A third system specializes in the social evaluation of the effects of an action, intention or other thought process, given certain goals in self or in others. (shrink)
This paper discusses the content of agency awareness. It contrast three elements in content: what the goal is, how it is to be reached, and who is having the goal/performing the action ? Marc Jeannerod's claim that goal representations are self-other neutral is discussed. If goal representations are essentially sharable, then we do not understand other people by projecting a piece of internal knowledge on to them, as often assumed. The problem which our brain has to solve is the converse (...) problem : determining who the agent is, once a goal is identified. This view has interesting consequences on the theory of mentalization. One can plausibly speculate that observing action, with an additional simulatory component for action memory, form major building blocks in understanding other minds. Metarepresenting, in this perspective, would depend on additional executive capacities for maintaining distinct the inferences from diverse simulated contexts of action. (shrink)
Peter Carruthers correctly claims that metacognition in humans may involve self-directed interpretations (i.e., may use the conceptual interpretative resources of mindreading). He fails to show, however, that metacognition cannot rely exclusively on subjective experience. Focusing on self-directed mindreading can only bypass evolutionary considerations and obscure important functional differences.
What is a person, and how can a person come to know that she is a person identical to herself over time ? The article defends the view that the sense of being oneself in this sense consists in the ability to consciously affect oneself : in the memory of having affected oneself, joint to the consciousness of being able to affect oneself again. In other words, being a self requires a capacity for metacognition (control and monitoring of one's own (...) internal states). This view is compatible with the hypothesis that the self is a dynamic representation emerging out of a higher level control system, - valuation control - whose articulation with control of plans and perceptual/motor control is discussed in the context of normal and pertrubed agency. (shrink)
This paper examines the response offered by Robert Gordon to the question how an interpreter can reach the correct content of others'psychological states. It exposes the main problems raised by Gordon's proposal, and provides a tentative solution that emphasizes the structuring role of counterfactual reasoning in embedding simulations and deriving facts that are holding across them.
Given disagreements about the architecture of the mind, the nature of self-knowledge, and its epistemology, the question of how to understand the function and scope of metacognition – the control of one's cognition - is still a matter of hot debate. A dominant view, the self-ascriptive view (or one-function view), has been that metacognition necessarily requires representing one's own mental states as mental states, and, therefore, necessarily involves an ability to read one's own mind. The self-evaluative view (or two-function view), (...) in contrast, takes metacognition to involve a procedural form of knowledge that is generated by actually engaging in a first-order cognitive task, and monitoring its success. The comparative and developmental arguments supporting, respectively, each of these views are discussed in the light of Hampton's operational definition of metacognition. New arguments are presented in favor of the two-function view. Recent behaviorial and neuroscientific evidence suggests that metacognitive assessment relies on dedicated implicit mechanisms, which are wholly independent, and indeed dissociable, from theory-based self-attribution. The two-function view is claimed to be the best interpretation of these findings. (shrink)
Against the view that metacognition is a capacity that parallels theory of mind, it is argued that metacognition need involve neither metarepresentation nor semantic forms of reflexivity, but only process-reflexivity, through which a task-specific system monitors its own internal feedback by using quantitative cues. Metacognitive activities, however, may be redescribed in metarepresentational, mentalistic terms in species endowed with a theory of mind.
This article is a summary of two chapters of a book published in French in 1997, entitled Comment L'esprit vient aux Bêtes, Paris, Gallimard. The core idea is that the crucial distinction between internal and external states, often used uncritically by theorists of intentionality, needs to be made on a non-circular basis. The proposal is that objectivity - the capacity to reidentify individuals as the same across places and times depends on the capacity to extract spatial crossmodal invariants, which in (...) turn presupposes a capacity to (re)calibrate perceptual inputs across modalities in a principled way. (shrink)
La connaissance de soi suppose que l'on puisse former des pensées vraies de la forme 'je Y que P', où 'Y' fait référence à une attitude propositionnelle, 'P' à son contenu, et 'je' au penseur de cette pensée. La question qui se pose est de savoir, ce qui, dans le contenu mental occurrent [P], justifie l'auto-attribution de cette pensée. Ce problème dit de la transition soulève trois difficultés ; celle de la préservation du contenu intentionnel entre la pensée de premier (...) et de second ordre ; celle de la reconnaissance de l'attitude ayant ce contenu intentionnel pour objet, et enfin la reconnaissance que ce qui est pensé l'est par le sujet qui pense. Le présent article se propose de montrer que la troisième difficulté résiste à une approche fondée sur l'expérience ou sur la signification cognitive de [P], et avance l'idée que la notion d'action mentale permet d'éclairer les conditions d'identité du penseur de [P] et du sujet de l'auto-attribution de l'attitude propositionnelle 'Y que P'.Self-knowledge requires the capacity to think true thoughts of the form 'I Y that P', where 'Y' refers to a propositional attitude, 'P' to a propositional content, and 'I' to the thinker of the thought of content P. The question that this requirement raises is to know what, in the occurrent mental content [P] , justifies the self-attribution of this thought. This problem, called the transition problem, includes three difficulties : how is intentional content stable across first- and second-order thoughts ? How is the attitude with this intentional content identified by the thinker ? And how is the thinker of the second-order thought able to claim truly that he himself is the thinker of the first-order thought ? The present paper's aim is to show that the third difficulty cannot be solved through an examination of the experience of having [P] or on the basis of the cognitive significance of P, and suggests that an analysis of mental actions in which propositional attitudes play a causal and feedback role give a better grasp on the conditions of identity of the thinker of [P] with the thinker of the propositional attitude 'Y that P'. (shrink)
The book under review offers two important contributions. One is a valuable discussion of the various ways of addressing the paradoxical experience of externality. The other is an emphasis on a distinction between the experience of subjectivity and the experience of agency. This review tries to show that this distinction is indeed a crucial feature in any solution to the question of externality, but that it is associated with a view of thinking as acting that is questionable.
This articles examines three ways in which the connection between semantic and pragmatic representations of a single action can be tightened up in order to remedy the puzzle of deviant causation. A first move consists in making the feedback process, i.e. the dynamics of the relationship between both representational components, a central element in the definition of an action. A second step brings in the action-effect principle, emphasizing the teleological relation of each pragmatic representation type with its external effects. A (...) final step consists in elucidating the constitutive character of demonstrative reference for the contents of working memory states. (shrink)
Granted that a given species is able to entertain beliefs and desires, i.e. to have (epistemic and motivational) internal states with semantically evaluable contents, one can raise the question of whether the species under investigation is, in addition, able to represent properties and events that are not only perceptual or physical, but mental, and use the latter to guide their actions, not only as reliable cues for achieving some output, but as mental cues (that is: whether it can 'read minds'). (...) The main aim of this article is to suggest that mindreading depends on two prior capacities : exercising simulation, as when one actively disengages from the present environment to imagine a counterfactual situation, and exploiting simulation, which implies that an imaginary situation is relocated within the real world. It is claimed that although apes have the first capacity, they don't have the second one, and therefore do not have access to mental attribution. (shrink)
This chapter aims to relate two fields of research that have been rarely – if ever – associated, namely embodied communication and metacognition. Exploring this relationship offers a new perspective for understanding the relationship between self-knowledge and mindreading. "Embodied communication" refers to the process of conveying information to one or several interlocutors through speech and associated bodily gestures, or through gestures only. It is prima facie plausible that embodied communication crucially involves metacognitive interventions. Let the term ‘conversational metacognition’ refer to (...) the set of abilities that allow an embodied speaker to make available to others and to receive from them specific markers concerning his/her "conversing adequacy". The hypothesis explored is that embodied communication in humans involve metacognitive gestures. Examples are offered from manual gesturing and from orofacial expressions. A final discussion examines the respective roles of altruistic and Machiavellian pressures in conversational metacognition. (shrink)
This book chapter aims at exploring how intentional a piece of behavior should be to count as an action, and how a minimal view on action, not requiring a richly intentional causation, may still qualify such a behavior as voluntary.
Growing suspicions were raised however that an exclusively language-oriented view of the mind, focussing on the characterization of anhistorical, static mental states through their propositional contents, was hardly compatible with what is currently known of brain architecture and did not fare well when confronted with results from many behavioral studies of mental functions. My aim in what follows is to show that these forms of dissatisfaction stem from the fact that brain evolution and development were either entirely ignored, or insufficiently (...) taken into account in inquiries about the structure of mental contents. I will discuss how evolutionary and developmental approaches to human cognition are now in a position to substantially alter the central paradigms currently used in cognitive science. (shrink)