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Temporal binding and the idea of a 'sense of agency': a critical examination

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Voluntary action gives rise to a temporal binding effect, in which the interval between intentional movements and their causal consequences is subjectively compressed. In the current psychological literature, temporal binding is widely conceived of as a measure of a ‘sense of agency’ involved in voluntary action. I provide an analysis of the explanatory framework that I take to be in play in existing accounts based on this idea. I raise two key problems for such accounts – an empirical and a conceptual one – and argue that the very idea of a dedicated ‘sense of agency’ rests on a confusion between two different issues. I then outline an alternative explanatory framework, which instead construes temporal binding as a measure of a belief in causality. I show how such an alternative framework, too, can explain the results of studies in which temporal binding has been shown to be affected by factors that specifically impinge on participants’ judgements about the extent to which they are themselves actively involved in bringing about the timed events.

This talk is part of the CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) seminar series.

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