Volume 22, Issue 1, Spring 2017
Effect Anticipation and the Experience of Voluntary Action Control
This paper discusses the issues surrounding voluntary action control in terms of two models that have emerged in empirical research into how our human conscious capabilities govern and control voluntary motor actions. A characterization of two aspects of consciousness, phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness, enables us to ask whether effect anticipations need be accessible to consciousness, or whether they can also have an effect on conscious control at an unconscious stage. A review of empirical studies points to the fact that willed actions are influenced by effect anticipations both when they are conscious and when they remain inaccessible to the conscious mind. This suggests that the effects of conscious voluntary actions—in line with the ideomotor principle proposed by William James—are anticipated during the generation of responses. I propose that the integration of perceptual and motor codes arises during action planning. The features of anticipated effects appear to be optionally connected with the features of the actions selected to bring about these effects in the world.