The Semiotic Construction of the Sense of Agency. The Modal Articulation in Narrative Processes

  • Raffaele De Luca PicioneEmail author
  • Maria Luisa Martino
  • Gina Troisi


The sense of agency is an ongoing process of semiotic construction of the action starting from the affective, cognitive, intersubjective and cultural matrix of experience. A person narratively constructs the sense of her agentive experience and in doing so does not refer exclusively to the “what”, but also to the “how”. There is always a specific “modus” to experience one’s own action. We present the psychological notion of the Modal Articulation Process (MAP), namely the way through which a person orients and configures in a contextual frame the sense of her actions by means of modal operators of necessity, possibility, impossibility, contingency, but also knowledge, will, capability, constrain and opportunity. The notion of Modal Articulation Process is proposed as a semiotic, dynamic and recursive process that articulates narratively many aspects of the agency: the relational positionings and the way of experiencing them, the constraints and the resources present in the socio-symbolic context, the inherent temporality of every human phenomenon. Although the study of modal operators has an ancient and solid tradition of research in the fields of modal logics, analytical philosophy and narrative semiotic disciplines as well, yet in the field of the psychological sciences - except for a few authoritative isolated cases (Kurt Lewin, Rom Harrè, Jaan Valsiner) - there is not a great deal of attention on the relevance of these symbolic devices and their function in constructing the sense of action in a narrative way. Indeed modal articulation processes are at stake both during daily common routines and during exceptional turning point experiences that request a reconfiguration of the sense of one’s own agency (e.g. the experiences of illness demand a new modal re-articulation). Our discussion is aimed at deepening and developing the notion of modal articulation, its functions and its specificities.


Sense of agency Modality Modal articulation process Semiotic mediation Sensemaking process Narrative Turning points & critical experiences 


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Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SInAPSi (Center for Active and Integrated Inclusion of Students) and Department of Humanistic StudiesFederico II UniversityNaplesItaly
  2. 2.Department of Humanistic StudiesFederico II UniversityNaplesItaly

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