Three experiments examined whether the mere priming of potential action effects enhances people’s feeling of causing these effects when they occur. In a computer task, participants and the computer independently moved a rapidly moving square on a display. Participants had to press a key, thereby stopping the movement. However, the participant or the computer could have caused the square to stop on the observed position, and accordingly, the stopped position of the square could be conceived of as the potential effect (...) resulting from participants’ action of pressing the stop key. The location of this position was primed or not just before participants had to stop the movement. Results showed that priming of the position enhanced experienced authorship of stopping the square. Additional experimentation demonstrated that this priming of agency was not mediated by the goal or intention to produce the effect. (shrink)
The conscious awareness of voluntary action is associated with systematic changes in time perception: The interval between actions and outcomes is experienced as compressed in time. Although this temporal binding is thought to result from voluntary movement and provides a window to the sense of agency, recent studies challenge this idea by demonstrating binding in involuntary movement. We offer a potential account for these findings by proposing that binding between involuntary actions and effects can occur when self-causation is implied. Participants (...) made temporal judgements concerning a key press and a tone, while they learned to consider themselves as the cause of the effect or not. Results showed that implied self-causation increased temporal binding. Since intrinsic motor cues of movement were absent, these results suggest that sensory evidence about the key press caused binding in retrospect and in line with the participant’s sense of being an agent. (shrink)
It is generally assumed that storing predictive relations between two events in memory as bi-directional associations does not require conscious awareness of this relation, whereas the formation of unidirectional associations that capture the direction of the relation does. This study reports a set of experiments demonstrating that unidirectional associations can be formed even when awareness of the relation is actively prevented, if attention is “tuned” to process predictive relations. When participants engaged in predicting targets based on cues in an unrelated (...) task before the actual acquisition phase, unidirectional associations were formed during this acquisition phase even though E1 was presented subliminally. This suggests that although processing the relation between events may often be accompanied by awareness of this relation, awareness is not a prerequisite for the formation of unidirectional associations. (shrink)
Recent research suggests that one can have the feeling of being the cause of an action’s outcome, even in the absence of a prior intention to act. That is, experienced self-agency over behavior increases when outcome representations are primed outside of awareness, prior to executing the action and observing the resulting outcome. Based on the notion that behavior can be represented at different levels, we propose that priming outcome representations is more likely to augment self-agency experiences when the primed representation (...) corresponds with a person’s behavior representation level. Three experiments, using different priming and self-agency tasks, both measuring and manipulating the level of behavior representation, confirmed this idea. Priming high level outcome representations enhanced experienced self-agency over behavior more strongly when behavior was represented at a higher level, rather than a lower level. Thus, priming effects on self-agency experiences critically depend on behavior representation level. (shrink)
Experiences of having caused a certain outcome may arise from motor predictions based on action–outcome probabilities and causal inferences based on pre-activated outcome representations. However, when and how both indicators combine to affect such self-agency experiences is still unclear. Based on previous research on prediction and inference effects on self-agency, we propose that their contribution crucially depends on whether people have knowledge about the causal relation between actions and outcomes that is relevant to subsequent self-agency experiences. Therefore, we manipulated causal (...) knowledge that was either relevant or irrelevant by varying the probability of co-occurrence of specific actions and outcomes. Afterwards, we measured self-agency experiences in an action–outcome task where outcomes were primed or not. Results showed that motor prediction only affected self-agency when relevant actions and outcomes were learned to be causally related. Interestingly, however, inference effects also occurred when no relevant causal knowledge was acquired. (shrink)
Two experiments examined similarities and differences in the effects of consciously and unconsciously perceived rewards on the active maintenance of goal-relevant information. Participants could gain high and low monetary rewards for performance on a word span task. The reward value was presented supraliminally or subliminally at different stages during the task. In Experiment 1, rewards were presented before participants processed the target words. Enhanced performance was found in response to higher rewards, regardless whether they were presented supraliminally or subliminally. In (...) Experiment 2, rewards were presented after participants processed the target words, i.e., during maintenance. Performance increased in response to relatively high rewards when they were presented subliminally, but decreased when they were presented supraliminally. We conclude that both consciously and unconsciously perceived rewards boost resources supporting the maintenance of task-relevant information. Conscious processing of rewards can, however, heavily interfere with an ongoing maintenance process and impair performance. (shrink)
Affect misattribution occurs when affective cues color subsequent unrelated evaluations. Research suggests that affect misattribution decreases when one is aware that affective cues are unrelated to the evaluation at hand. We propose that affect misattribution may even occur when one is aware that affective cues are irrelevant, as long as the source of these cues seems ambiguous. When source ambiguity exists, affective cues may freely influence upcoming unrelated evaluations. We examined this using an adapted affect misattribution procedure where pleasant and (...) unpleasant responses served as affective cues that could influence later evaluations of unrelated targets. These affective cues were either perceived as reflecting a single source , or as reflecting two sources suggesting source ambiguity. Results show that misattribution of affect decreased when participants perceived affective cues as representing one source rather than two. (shrink)
Recently, we showed that conscious and unconscious rewards affect the active maintenance of goal-relevant information differently. Here, we elaborate on the mechanisms enabling the boosting or disrupting effects of consciously processed high rewards, and discuss a few methodological and theoretical implications that may be worth considering in future research on the role of reward processing in working memory performance.