The Neurocognitive Bases of Human Volition

Annual Review of Psychology
Patrick Haggard


Volition refers to a capacity for endogenous action, particularly goal-directed endogenous action, shared by humans and some other animals. It has long been controversial whether a specific set of cognitive processes for volition exist in the human brain, and much scientific thinking on the topic continues to revolve around traditional metaphysical debates about free will. At its origins, scientific psychology had a strong engagement with volition. This was followed by a period of disenchantment, or even outright hostility, during the second half of the twentieth century. In this review, I aim to reinvigorate the scientific approach to volition by, first, proposing a range of different features that constitute a new, neurocognitively realistic working definition of volition. I then focus on three core features of human volition: its generativity (the capacity to trigger actions), its subjectivity (the conscious experiences associated with initiating voluntary actions), and its teleology (the goal-directed quality of some voluntary actions). I conclude that volition is a neurocognitive process of enormous societal importance and susceptible to scientific investigation.


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Jun 14, 2019·Frontiers in Psychology·Sofia Bonicalzi, Patrick Haggard
May 21, 2020·Psychological Research·Yang LiuWery P M van den Wildenberg
Mar 28, 2019·Frontiers in Human Neuroscience·Ceci VerbaarschotJason Farquhar
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Sep 26, 2020·The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology : QJEP·Bartosz MajchrowiczPatrick Haggard
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Mar 7, 2021·Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America·Daniel Pacheco EstefanPaul F M J Verschure
May 29, 2021·Theory in Biosciences = Theorie in Den Biowissenschaften·Hans Liljenström
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