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Agency and Joint Attention$
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Janet Metcalfe and Herbert S. Terrace

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199988341

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199988341.001.0001

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The Three Pillars of Volition

The Three Pillars of Volition

Phenomenal States, Ideomotor Processing, and the Skeletal Muscle System

(p.284) 17 The Three Pillars of Volition
Agency and Joint Attention

Ezequiel Morsella

Tanaz Molapour

Margaret T. Lynn

Oxford University Press

This chapter tackles the problem of volition from an inductive (instead of deductive) and descriptive (instead of normative) approach. In this “bottom-up” approach, a distinction is made between the high-level properties of human voluntary action and its necessary basic components—the building blocks that are necessary for voluntary action to exist. First reviewed are the documented properties of voluntary processes, including high-level cognitions such as the sense of agency (that is, the sense that the self is responsible for the occurrence of a physical or mental act) and less intuitive properties, including distortions in time perception and the ability to influence that which enters attentional awareness. The chapter then examines how the instantiation of voluntary action rests on three primary components: The phenomenal state (the most basic form of conscious awareness), ideomotor processing (a form of action control), and the skeletal muscle output system (the only effector in the body that is controlled voluntarily). We conclude by discussing how the interdependences among these three components provide a unique insight into the mechanisms of voluntary action and the nature of human agency.

Keywords:   volition, inductive approach, voluntary action, distortions, attentional awareness, phenomenal state, ideomotor processing, action control, agency

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