What the sense of agency tells me about my dream body

Talk by Melanie Rosen, IMC

2017.10.31 | Anne-Mette Pedersen

Date Tue 06 Feb
Time 11:00 13:00
Location IMC Meeting Room, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, Building 1483, 8000 Aarhus C


Part of my research looks into what our experience of agency, or sense of agency (SoA) during dreams tell us about the types of perceptual experience we can have while shut off from the external world: when the brain is 'envatted' by input and output "blockades". However, this assumes that dreaming brains are in fact envatted, and that dreams are perceptual. There is still much disagreement on the nature of dream phenomenology. Here I argue that reports of SoA during dreams are consistent with a pluralistic approach: dream phenomenology shifts between imagination, illusion and hallucination.

Dreaming is of particular interest to the study of the SoA as it displays many fascinating agentive indicators such as achieving goals and feelings of control over bodily movement as well as failed SoA, delusion-like experience and passivity. If dreams are isolated from the external world, this is difficult to explain.  However, dreams experiences aren't entirely envatted – in fact some theorists argue that bodily experiences are generally illusory perceptions of the sleeping body. An even bolder alternative is that dreams are not perceptual at all, but rather, they are imagination.

Here I contrast three competing hypotheses about dreams in light of evidence from theories of SoA: the hallucination, imagination, and illusion hypotheses. I argue instead for a pluralistic approach: dream experiences shift between 3 types of experience which relates to holistic, narrator and comparator approaches to SoA.


Melanie Rosen, Postdoc, IMC