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Voluntary action is an anticipated goal-oriented movement. The concept of voluntary action arises in many areas of study, including
cognitive psychology Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of mental process Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intelle ...
,
operant conditioning Operant conditioning (also called instrumental conditioning) is a type of associative learning process through which the strength of a behavior is modified by reinforcement or punishment. It is also a procedure that is used to bring about such lea ...
, philosophy, neurology, criminology, and others. Additionally, voluntary action has various meanings depending on the context in which it is used. For example, operant psychology uses the term to refer to the actions that are modifiable by their consequences. A more cognitive account may refer to voluntary action as involving the identification of a desired outcome together with the action necessary to achieve that outcome. Voluntary action is often associated with consciousness and will. For example, Psychologist Charles Nuckolls holds that we control our voluntary behavior, and that it is not known how we come to plan what actions will be executed. Many psychologists, notably Tolman, apply the concept of voluntary action to both animal and human behavior, raising the issue of animal consciousness and its role in voluntary action. (See
animal consciousness Animal consciousness, or animal awareness, is the Quality (philosophy), quality or state of self-awareness within a non-human animal, or of being aware of an external object or something within itself. In humans, consciousness has been defined as ...
) Hommel, B.(2003). "Acquisition and control of voluntary action", pp. 34–48 in Roth, Gerhard (Ed.) ''Voluntary action: Brains, minds, and sociality''. New York, NY: Oxford University Press


History: William James on voluntary action

The concept of voluntary action was discussed by
William James William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States ** Americans, citi ...
in his influential book ''
The Principles of Psychology ''The Principles of Psychology'' is an 1890 book about psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and ...
'' (1890). James states that for an act to be classified as a voluntary, it must be foreseen, as opposed to
involuntary action In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechanisms, ...
which occurs without foresight. James suggests, for example, that the idea of a particular movement is a voluntary action; however, the movement itself, once the idea has been formed, is involuntary, provided the action itself require no further thought.James, W. (1890). ''The Principles of Psychology'', Vol 2. New York, NY: Holt & Co. Voluntary action arises because humans and animals wish to fulfill desires. In order to fulfill these desires, humans and animals form
goal A goal is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or a group of people envision, Planning, plan and commit to achieve. People endeavour to reach goals within a finite time by setting Time limit, deadlines. A goal is roughly simi ...

goal
s and voluntary actions are undertaken to achieve these goals. Some of the terms that James used to describe voluntary action – such as desire – are now outdated, and his introspective approach is out of favor, but many of his ideas are still find a place in current thinking.


See also

*
Involuntary action In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechanisms, ...
*
Cognitive psychology Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of mental process Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intelle ...
*
William James William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States ** Americans, citi ...
* ''
The Principles of Psychology ''The Principles of Psychology'' is an 1890 book about psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and ...
'


References

{{reflist Animal physiology Cognitive psychology