Chris Frith

Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology , University College London

Chris Frith is emeritus professor of neuropsychology at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London. He is interested in the relationship between the mind and the brain, and studies belief, will and social interactions. His latest book is The Cognitive Neuropsychology of Schizophrenia (2015). Both he and Uta Frith are Fellows of the Royal Society, the British Academy, and the Academy of Medical Sciences.

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Our illusory sense of agency has a deeply important social purpose

Chris Frith

Is our experience of agency illusory?

Our experience of agency is certainly subject to illusions. We can believe that our movements are causing things to happen, when this is not actually the case. But does it follow that our experience of agency is an illusion? Are we never really in control? We also have illusions of perception when what we see doesn’t correspond to what is really there, such as the Müller-Lyer illusion where two lines appear to be of different lengths, when they are really exactly equal. But this doesn’t mean that all our perceptions are an illusion.

In fact illusions of agency are quite rare. Most of the time we do know what we are doing. But the occurre...

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