Publication 2348

Christoff K., Cosmelli D., Legrand D. & Thompson E. (2011) Specifying the Self for Cognitive Neuroscience. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15: 104–112. Fulltext at
Cognitive neuroscience investigations of self-experience have mainly focused on the mental attribution of features to the self (self-related processing). In this paper, we highlight another fundamental, yet neglected, aspect of self-experience, that of being an agent. We propose that this aspect of self-experience depends on self-specifying processes, ones that implicitly specify the self by implementing a functional self/non-self distinction in perception, action, cognition and emotion. We describe two paradigmatic cases – sensorimotor integration and homeostatic regulation – and use the principles from these cases to show how cognitive control, including emotion regulation, is also self-specifying. We argue that externally directed, attention-demanding tasks, rather than suppressing self-experience, give rise to the self-experience of being a cognitive-affective agent. We conclude with directions for experimental work based on our framework.


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