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Psychol Sci. 2003 Nov;14(6):586-91.

The perceived onset time of self- and other-generated actions.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Psychologische Forschung, München, Germany.


Awareness of actions is partly based on the intentions accompanying them. Thus, the awareness of self- and other-generated actions should differ to the extent that access to own and other's intentions differs. Recent studies have found a brain circuit (the mirror-neuron system) that represents self- and other-generated actions in an integrated fashion. This system does not respond to actions made by nonagents, such as machines. We measured the estimated onset time of actions that subjects either executed themselves or observed being executed by someone else or by a machine. In three experiments, the estimates of the machine actions always differed from those of self- and other-generated actions, whereas the latter two were indistinguishable. Our results are consistent with the view that intentions are attributed to others but not to machines. They also raise the interesting possibility that people attribute intentions to themselves in the same way as they do to others.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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