Humans have the conscious experience of 'free will': we feel we can generate our actions, and thus affect our environment. Here we used the perceived time of intentional actions and of their sensory consequences as a means to study consciousness of action. These perceived times were attracted together in conscious awareness, so that subjects perceived voluntary movements as occurring later and their sensory consequences as occurring earlier than they actually did. Comparable involuntary movements caused by magnetic brain stimulation reversed this attraction effect. We conclude that the CNS applies a specific neural mechanism to produce intentional binding of actions and their effects in conscious awareness.
This is a preview of subscription content
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $4.92 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Libet, B., Gleason, C. A., Wright, E. W. & Pearl, D. K. Time of conscious intention to act in relation to onset of cerebral activity (readiness-potential): the unconscious initiation of a freely voluntary act. Brain 106, 623–642 (1983).
Haggard, P. & Eimer, M. On the relation between brain potentials and the awareness of voluntary movements. Exp. Brain Res. 126, 128–133 (1999).
Fink, G. R. et al. The neural consequences of conflict between intention and the senses. Brain 122, 497–512 (1999).
Blakemore, S. J., Wolpert, D. M. & Frith, C. D. Why can't you tickle yourself? Neuroreport 11, 11–16 (2000).
Daprati, E. et al. Looking for the agent: an investigation into consciousness of action and self-consciousness in schizophrenic patients. Cognition 65, 71–86 (1997).
Haggard, P. & Magno, E. Localising awareness of action with transcranial magnetic stimulation. Exp. Brain Res. 127, 102–107 (1999).
Hommel, B. The cognitive representation of action: automatic integration of perceived action effects. Psychol. Res. 59, 176–186 (1996).
Elsner, B. & Hommel, B. Effect anticipation and action control. J. Exp. Psychol. Hum. Percept. Perform. 27, 229–240 (2001).
Breitmeyer, B. Problems with the psychophysics of intention. Behav. Brain Sci. 8, 539 (1985).
Sternberg, S. & Knoll, R. L. in Attention and Performance IV (ed. S. Kornblum) 629–686 (LEA, Hillsdale, New Jersey, 1973).
Shore, D. I, Spence, C. & Klein, R. M. Visual prior entry. Psychol. Sci. 12, 205–212 (2001).
Blakemore, S. J., Frith, C. D. & Wolpert, D. M. Spatio-temporal prediction modulates the perception of self-produced stimuli. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 11, 551–559 (1999).
Reason, J. Human Error (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990).
Frith, C. D. The Cognitive Neuropsychology of Schizophrenia (LEA, Hove, UK, 1992).
Wolpert, D. M. & Ghahramani, Z. Computational principles of movement neuroscience. Nature Neurosci. 3, 1212–1217 (2000).
This research was supported by MRC, Wellcome Trust and Leverhulme Trust. S.C. was involved in experiment 1; J.K. was involved in experiment 2.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Haggard, P., Clark, S. & Kalogeras, J. Voluntary action and conscious awareness. Nat Neurosci 5, 382–385 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn827
Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation (2022)
Nature Reviews Psychology (2022)
Scientific Reports (2022)
Psychological Research (2022)
Game theory and partner representation in joint action: toward a computational theory of joint agency
Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences (2022)