Action-oriented understanding of consciousness and the structure of experience

Anil K. Seth, Paul F. M. J. Verschure, Ezequiel Morsella, J. Kevin O'Regan, Olaf Blanke, Martin V. Butz, Judith M. Ford, Chris D. Frith, Pierre Jacob, Miriam Kyselo, Marek McGann, Richard Menary

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The action-oriented approach in cognitive science emphasizes the role of action in shaping, or constituting, perception, cognition, and consciousness. This chapter summarizes a week-long discussion on how the action-oriented approach changes our understanding of consciousness and the structure of experience, combining the viewpoints of philosophers, neuroscientists, psychologists, and clinicians. This is exciting territory, since much of the resurgent activity in consciousness science has so far focused on the neural, cognitive, and behavioral correlates of perception, independent of action. A wide-ranging discussion included questions such as how actions shape consciousness, and what determines consciousness of actions. The specific context of self-experience, from its bodily aspects to its social expression were considered. The discussions were related to specific theoretical frameworks, which emphasize the role of action in cognition, and identified an emerging empirical agenda including action-based experiments in both normal subjects and clinical populations. An intensive consideration of action is likely to have a lasting impact on how we conceive of the phenomenology and mechanisms of consciousness, and on the ways in which consciousness science will unfold in the years ahead.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Pragmatic turn
Subtitle of host publicationtoward action-oriented views in cognitive science
EditorsAndreas K. Engel, Karl J. Friston, Danica Kragic
Place of PublicationCambridge, Massachusetts
PublisherMIT Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9780262034326
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameStrüngmann Forum Report series
PublisherMIT Press


  • Strüngmann Forum Reports
  • action
  • consciousness
  • distributed adaptive control
  • enactivism
  • sensorimotor contingency theory
  • Bayesian brain

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