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The Sense of Agency$
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Patrick Haggard and Baruch Eitam

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190267278

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190267278.001.0001

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Deconstructing Voluntary Action

Deconstructing Voluntary Action

Unconscious and Conscious Component Processes

(p.25) 2 Deconstructing Voluntary Action
The Sense of Agency

Lara Krisst

Carlos Montemayor

Ezequiel Morsella

Oxford University Press

Investigations of human action have led to the conclusion that much action production can occur unconsciously. Behaviors such as reflexes (e.g., the pupillary reflex, peristalsis) and automatisms in neurological conditions reveal that action production can be mediated unconsciously. Less obvious, however, are the unconscious mechanisms associated with everyday voluntary actions. Voluntary action is a complex form of action that involves both unconscious and conscious component processes. This chapter reviews the unconscious components of voluntary action and then examines how these components interact with consciousness. The analysis includes treatments of Skinner’s influential “three-term contingency” and the phenomenon of effortless control. The chapter discusses the unresolved issues (e.g. the necessity of a “go” signal during action selection) and paradoxes (e.g. the self-report paradox) that are encountered when investigating action from a reductionistic standpoint in which there is no homunculus-like agent involved in voluntary action.

Keywords:   unconscious processing, consciousness, voluntary action, Skinner, automatism

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