Who is causing what? The sense of agency is relational and efferent-triggered

Cognition 107 (2):693-704 (2008)
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Abstract

The sense of agency is a basic feature of our subjective experience. Experimental studies usually focus on either its attributional aspects or on its motoric aspects. Here, we combine both aspects and focus on the subjective experience of the time between action and effect. Previous studies [Haggard, P., Aschersleben, G., Gehrke, J., & Prinz, W.. Action, binding and awareness. In W. Prinz, & B. Hommel, Common mechanisms in perception and action: Attention and performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press] have shown a temporal attraction in the perceived times of actions and effects, but did directly not study the relation between them. In three experiments, time estimates of an interval between an action and its subsequent sensory effect were obtained. The actions were either voluntary key press actions performed by the participant or kinematically identical movements applied passively to the finger. The effects were either auditory or visual events or a passive movement induced to another finger. The results first indicated a shortening of the interval between one’s own voluntary action and a subsequent effect, relative to passive movement conditions. Second, intervals initiated by observed movements, either of another person or of an inanimate object, were always perceived like those involving passive movements of one’s own body, and never like those involving active movements. Third, this binding effect was comparable for auditory, somatic and visual effects of action. Our results provide the first direct evidence that agency involves a generalisable relation between actions and their consequences, and is triggered by efferent motor commands.

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References found in this work

The Illusion of Conscious Will.Daniel M. Wegner - 2002 - Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
The Principles of Psychology.William James - 1890 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 11 (3):506-507.

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