This paper argues that presence, as shown in virtual environments, can usefully be seen as comprising various subtypes and that these in turn may have common conceptual and ontological features with a sense of agency as defined by Russell (1996, Agency: Its Role in Mental Development, Erlbaum.). Furthermore, an analysis of Russell's characterization of the concept of agency may be useful for acquiring insight into the sense of presence itself and the variables affecting it. Empirical evidence from cognitive developmental research and the positive results of attempts to develop symbolic understanding in people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in virtual environments suggest that presence may be more about experiencing agency than either pretending to be there or constructing and reconstructing mental models in real time. This analysis is used to shed some light on the current issues of presence research and to open up new philosophical and psychological aspects, in relation to both presence and ASD.

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