We have only limited awareness of the system by which we control our actions and this limited awareness does not seem to be concerned with the control of action. Awareness of choosing one action rather than another comes after the choice has been made, while awareness of initiating an action occurs before the movement has begun. These temporal differences bind together in consciousness the intention to act and the consequences of the action. This creates our sense of agency. Activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex is associated with awareness of our own actions and also occurs when we think about the actions of others. I propose that the mechanism underlying awareness of how our own intentions lead to actions can also be used to represent the intentions that underlie the actions of others. This common system enables us to communicate mental states and thereby share our experiences.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science (USA)