Keywords: Consciousness; Self-consciousness; Sense of Agency; Metacognition; Comparator Model.
In light of Bayne and Pacherie's distinction between top-down and bottom-up approaches the sense of agency has been seen as a multifaceted phenomenon. More recently it has been proposed that each of these types of approach are capable of explaining different aspects of the sense of agency. Considering the paradigm case of a disorder of the sense of agency, i.e. delusions of alien control, it has been proposed that a bottom up account may explain why patients fail to attribute actions to themselves, whilst a top down approach is needed to explain why patients attribute actions to a specific other. This gives rise to an impression that there is no unifying account of the sense of agency and that different aspects of the experience are only loosely related to one another. Here I argue that this complexity in the mechanism underling the sense of agency is to be understood within the framework of metacognition, metacognition being the cognitive capacity to represent and regulate cognitive processes. This framework allows us to reunify the sense of agency whilst doing justice to observed dissociations between the sense of agency over bodily and mental actions and the complexities that distinctions such as that between top down and bottom up approaches were designed to accommodate.