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Sense of agency From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The "sense of agency" (SA) refers to the subjective awareness that one is initiating, executing, and controlling one's own volitional actions in the world. It is the pre-reflective awareness or implicit sense that it is I who is executing bodily movement(s) or thinking thoughts. In normal, non-pathological experience, the SA is tightly integrated with one's "sense of ownership" (SO), which is the pre-reflective awareness or implicit sense that one is the owner of an action, movement or thought. If someone else were to move your arm (while you remained passive) you would certainly have sensed that it were your arm that moved and thus a sense of ownership (SO) for that movement. However, you would not have felt that you were the author of the movement; you would not have a sense of agency (SA).
Normally SA and SO are tightly integrated, such that while typing one has an enduring, embodied, and tacit sense that "my own fingers are doing the moving" (SO) and that "the typing movements are controlled (or volitionally directed) by me" (SA). In patients suffering from certain forms of pathological experience (i.e., schizophrenia) the integration of SA and SO may become disrupted in some manner. In this case, movements may be executed or thoughts made manifest, for which the schizophrenic patient has a sense of ownership, but not a sense of agency.
Regarding SA for both motor movements and thoughts, further distinctions may be found in both first-order (immediate, pre-reflective) experience and higher-order (reflective or introspective) consciousness. For example, while typing I have a sense of control and thus SA for the on-going action of typing; this is an example of SA in first-order experience which is immediate and prior to any explicit intellectual reflection upon the typing actions themselves. In this case, I am not focusing on the typing movements per se but rather, I am involved with the task at hand. If I'm subsequently asked if I just performed the action of typing, I can correctly attribute agency to myself. This is an example of a higher-order, reflective, conscious "attribution" of agency, which is a derivative notion stemming from the immediate, pre-reflective "sense" of agency.