Display Settings:


Send to:

Choose Destination
Neuroscientist. 2008 Aug;14(4):319-25. doi: 10.1177/1073858408317417.

The what, when, whether model of intentional action.

Author information

  • 1Ghent University, Department of Experimental Psychology and Ghent Institute for Functional and Metabolic Imaging, Ghent, Belgium. marcel.brass@ugent.be


The question of how we can intentionally control our behavior has an enduring fascination for philosophers, psychologists, and neurologists. Brain imaging techniques such as functional MRI have recently provided new insights into the functional and brain mechanisms involved in intentional action. However, the literature is rather contradictory and does not reveal a consistent picture of the functional neuroanatomy of intentional action. Here the authors argue that this confusion arises partly because intentional action has been treated as a unitary concept within neuroscience, even though experimental studies may focus on any of a number of different aspects of intentional action. To provide a heuristic framework for the investigation of intentional action, the authors propose a model that distinguishes three major components: a component related to the decision about which action to execute (what component), a component that is related to the decision about when to execute an action (when component), and finally the decision about whether to execute an action or not (whether component). Based on this distinction, the authors review some key findings on intentional action and provide neuroscientific evidence for the What, When, Whether (WWW) model of intentional action.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk