The comparator account holds that processes of motor prediction contribute to the sense of agency by attenuating incoming sensory information and that disruptions to this process contribute to misattributions of agency in schizophrenia. Over the last 25 years this simple and powerful model has gained widespread support not only as it relates to bodily actions but also as an account of misattributions of agency for inner speech, potentially explaining the etiology of auditory verbal hallucination (AVH). In this paper we provide a detailed analysis of the traditional comparator account for inner speech, pointing out serious problems with the specification of inner speech on which it is based and highlighting inconsistencies in the interpretation of the electrophysiological evidence commonly cited in its favor. In light of these analyses we propose a new comparator account of misattributed inner speech. The new account follows leading models of motor imagery in proposing that inner speech is not attenuated by motor prediction, but rather derived directly from it. We describe how failures of motor prediction would therefore directly affect the phenomenology of inner speech and trigger a mismatch in the comparison between motor prediction and motor intention, contributing to abnormal feelings of agency. We argue that the new account fits with the emerging phenomenological evidence that AVHs are both distinct from ordinary inner speech and heterogeneous. Finally, we explore the possibility that the new comparator account may extend to explain disruptions across a range of imagistic modalities, and outline avenues for future research.
- sense of agency, inner speech, comparator model, schizophrenia, efference copy, auditory verbal hallucination