A Cognitive Account of Agentive Awareness, Mind & Language, forthcoming.
Abstract: Agentive awareness is the awareness one has of oneself as presently acting. Dominant accounts in the cognitive science literature treat this type of self-awareness as an aspect of sensory experience that is grounded in the sub-personal states and processes underlying motor control. In this paper, I present and defend an alternative picture on which the vehicles of agentive awareness are personal-level cognitive states that are intimately tied to one’s action-initiating intention. I identify the ways in which this account can accommodate the phenomenology of agency as well as offer insights into various pathological conditions, namely delusions of control in schizophrenia, anarchic hand syndrome, and anosognosia for hemiplegia.
Is There A Bodily Experience of Agency? In Thor Grünbaum & Mark Schram Christensen (Eds.) Sensation of Movement, Routledge, forthcoming.
Abstract: In this chapter, I consider the question of whether there is a bodily experience of agency. In other words, what I aim to uncover is whether there is a way in which we can make sense of the proposal that our proprioceptive experiences, specifically our kinaesthetic experiences, are capable of representing our bodily movements as actions. I argue that if we properly appreciate the role that proprioceptive states play in action control, there is a clear sense in which there is a bodily experience of agency.
Agentive Phenomenology (coauthored with Joshua Shepherd). In Uriah Kriegel (Ed.) Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Consciousness. Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
Abstract: In this chapter we reflect on questions about the nature and sources of agentive phenomenology – that is, the set of those experience-types associated with exercises of agency, and paradigmatically with intentional actions. Our discussion begins with pioneering work in psychology and neuroscience that dates to the early 80s (section 1). As we will see, much of the current work on agentive phenomenology in both psychology and philosophy draws motivation from this work, and the questions it raises.1 After discussing empirical work relevant to agentive phenomenology, we turn to consideration of its nature. We cover questions about the scope of agentive phenomenology, about its relationship to other types of experiences (section 2.1), about the best way to characterize aspects of agentive phenomenology, and about the function of various types of agentive experience (section 2.2).
Abstract: A full account of purposive action must appeal not only to propositional attitude states like beliefs, desires, and intentions, but also to motor representations, i.e., non-propositional states that are thought to represent, among other things, action outcomes as well as detailed kinematic features of bodily movements. This raises the puzzle of how it is that these two distinct types of state successfully coordinate. We examine this so-called “Interface Problem”. First, we clarify and expand on the nature and role of motor representations in explaining intentional action. Next, we characterize the respective functions of intentions and motor representations, the differences in representational format and content that these imply, and the interface challenge these differences in turn raise. We then evaluate Butterfill and Sinigaglia’s (2014) recent answer to this interface challenge, according to which intentions refer to action outcomes by way of demonstrative deference to motor representations. We present some worries for this proposal, arguing that, among other things, it implicitly presupposes a solution to the problem, and so cannot help to resolve it. Finally, we suggest that we may make some progress on this puzzle by positing a “content-preserving causal process” taking place between intentions and motor representations, and we offer a proposal for how this might work.
Abstract: In this paper, I argue that the conscious awareness one has of oneself as acting, i.e., agentive awareness, is not a type of sensory awareness. After providing some set up in Sect. 1, I move on in Sect. 2 to sketch a profile of sensory agentive experiences (SAEs) as representational states with sensory qualities by which we come to be aware of ourselves as performing actions. In Sect. 3, I critique two leading arguments in favor of positing such sensory experiences: the argument from pathology and the argument from cognitive impenetrability. Since neither of these arguments succeeds, the case for positing SAEs is dealt a significant blow. I proceed in Sect. 4 to advance my positive argument against SAEs. The argument runs as follows: If SAEs exist, then they must exist in some sensory modality or set of sensory modalities. Either the relevant sensory modalities are ones that we already recognize, or they are novel sensory modalities. I will argue that neither of these options is workable, and so we have nowhere to locate SAEs. Agentive awareness is not sensory awareness.
Naturalizing Free Will: Paths and Pitfalls (coauthored with Hakwan Lau). In Al Mele (ed.), Surrounding Free Will, Oxford University Press, 2015
Abstract: Investigations into the nature of free will have traditionally proceeded on largely theoretical and conceptual grounds. But in recent years, a research program has emerged that aims to develop, refine, and evaluate theories of free will by appeal to methods and data from the natural and social sciences. We call this the Naturalizing Free Will Program (NFWP). This chapter is a critical survey of three of the main implementations of the NFWP: (i) the Phenomenological Program, which seeks to get at an accurate description of the phenomenology of free will using the methods of psychology, (ii) the Intuitionist Program, which uses the methods of social psychology to systematically investigate folk intuitions surrounding free will, and (iii) the Cognitive Psychology/Neuroscience Program, which aims to evaluate theories of free will by appeal to the results and theories of cognitive psychology and neuroscience.
Evaluating the Case for Low-Level Accounts of Agentive Awareness, Philosophical Topics, 40(2), 103-127, 2012
Abstract: Agentive awareness is the awareness one has of oneself as acting, or as performing a particular action. Theorists distinguish between high-level (e.g., Wegner 2002), low-level (e.g., Frith 2007), and integrative approaches (e.g., Pacherie 2008) to explaining this brand of subjective awareness. In this paper, I evaluate the commitment of both low-level and integrative approaches to the claim that the representations involved in sensorimotor control, specifically as described by the comparator model (e.g., Frith 1992) contribute in some significant way to agentive awareness. I examine the main empirical data offered in support of this claim, and argue that it does not succeed in establishing a role for sensorimotor states in generating agentive awareness. This helps clear the way for high-level approaches to explaining this phenomenon.
Abstract: Synesthesia is a fairly common condition in which individuals experience atypical responses (such as color experiences) in association with certain types of stimuli (such as non-colored letters). Although synesthesia has been described for centuries, only very recently has there been an explosive growth of systematic scientific examinations of this condition. In this article, we review and critically evaluate current methods for both assessing synesthesia and examining its psychological basis, including the “test-retest” procedure, online battery assessments, and behavioral experiments. We highlight the limitations of these methods for understanding the nature of this complex condition and propose potential solutions to address some of these limitations. We also provide a set of characteristics that aid in distinguishing synesthesia from other closely related psychological phenomena.
Abstract: In this commentary, we argue that the neurocognitive evidence that Pickering & Garrod cite in favor of positing forward models in speech production is not compelling. The data to which they appeal either cannot be explained by forward models, or can be explained by a more parsimonious model.
Abstract: Mandik (2010) defends a motor theory of control consciousness according to which nonsensory states, like motor commands, directly contribute to the awareness we have of ourselves as being in control of our actions. Along the way, he argues that his theory is to be preferred over Prinz’s (2007) sensory imagery theory, which denies that nonsensory states play any direct role in the generation of control consciousness. I argue that Mandik’s criticisms of Prinz’s theory fall short, but that nonetheless there are reasons to favor a motor theory of control consciousness over a sensory imagery theory.