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Cognition. 2017 May;162:54-60. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2017.02.002. Epub 2017 Feb 14.

Having control over the external world increases the implicit sense of agency.

Author information

1
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, Alexandra House, 17 Queen Square, WC1N 3AZ London, United Kingdom.
2
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, Alexandra House, 17 Queen Square, WC1N 3AZ London, United Kingdom. Electronic address: p.haggard@ucl.ac.uk.

Abstract

The sense of agency refers to the feeling of control over one's actions, and, through them, over external events. One proposed marker of implicit sense of agency is 'intentional binding'-the tendency to perceive voluntary actions and their outcomes as close in time. Another is attenuation of the sensory consequences of a voluntary action. Here we show that the ability to choose an outcome through action selection contributes to implicit sense of agency. We measured intentional binding and stimulus intensity ratings using painful and non-painful somatosensory outcomes. In one condition, participants chose between two actions with different probabilities of producing high or low intensity outcomes, so action choices were meaningful. In another condition, action selection was meaningless with respect to the outcome. Having control over the outcome increased binding, especially when outcomes were painful. Greater sensory attenuation also tended to be associated with stronger binding of the outcome towards the action that produced it. Previous studies have emphasised the link between sense of agency and initiation of voluntary motor actions. Our study shows that the ability to control outcomes by discriminative action selection is another key element of implicit sense of agency. It also investigates, for the first time, the relation between binding and sensory attenuation for the same events.

KEYWORDS:

Action selection; Intentional binding; Pain; Sense of agency; Sensory attenuation

PMID:
28212896
DOI:
10.1016/j.cognition.2017.02.002
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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