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We argue that there is a relation between the judgements that 'I did it' and 'I saw it'. Both are statements are about the individual, not just the world. We show that the dorsal prefrontal cortex is activated both when human subjects judge that they are the agents of their actions and when they judge that they are confident that they have seen a masked visual stimulus. Macaque monkeys have also been taught to report whether they have or have not seen visual stimuli and cells can be found in the dorsal prefrontal cortex that distinguish between 'seen' and 'not seen'. The judgement is abstract in that it applies largely irrespective of the nature and location of the stimulus. We suggest that the reason why the prefrontal cortex is involved is that it evolved in primates, adapted by searching for fruit and leaves and using their hands to retrieve them. There is cell activity in the dorsal prefrontal cortex that relates to eye movements, covert attention and visual search; activity that relates to learning abstract rules; and activity that relates to the planning of the hand movements that are appropriate. We propose that this is the reason why this area is involved in making judgements about both agency and visual detection.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





241 - 248


Agency, Awareness, Humans, Macaque monkeys, Prefrontal cortex, Seeing, fMRI