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Front Psychol. 2013 Jan 29;4:23. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00023. eCollection 2013.

Attribution of intentional causation influences the perception of observed movements: behavioral evidence and neural correlates.

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Department of Psychiatry, Brain Mapping Unit, University of Cambridge Cambridge, UK ; Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London London, UK.


Recent research on human agency suggests that intentional causation is associated with a subjective compression in the temporal interval between actions and their effects. That is, intentional movements and their causal effects are perceived as closer together in time than equivalent unintentional movements and their causal effects. This so-called intentional binding effect is consistently found for one's own self-generated actions. It has also been suggested that intentional binding occurs when observing intentional movements of others. However, this evidence is undermined by limitations of the paradigm used. In the current study we aimed to overcome these limitations using a more rigorous design in combination with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to explore the neural underpinnings of intentional binding of observed movements. In particular, we aimed to identify brain areas sensitive to the interaction between intentionality and causality attributed to the observed action. Our behavioral results confirmed the occurrence of intentional binding for observed movements using this more rigorous paradigm. Our fMRI results highlighted a collection of brain regions whose activity was sensitive to the interaction between intentionality and causation. Intriguingly, these brain regions have previously been implicated in the sense of agency over one's own movements. We discuss the implications of these results for intentional binding specifically, and the sense of agency more generally.


agency; causality; consciousness; fMRI; intention; intentional binding; mental-state attribution; social perception

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