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Earlier Effects Are More Often Perceived as One’s Own Action Effects

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When changes occur in our environment, we usually know whether we caused these changes by our actions or not. Yet, this feeling of authorship for changes — the so-called sense of agency (SoA) — depends on the temporal relationship between action and resulting change (i.e., effect). More precisely, SoA might depend on whether the effect occurs temporally predictable, and on the duration of the delay between action and effect. In previous studies, SoA was measured either explicitly, asking for the perceived control over external stimuli, or implicitly by measuring a characteristic temporal judgement bias (intentional binding, i.e., a shortening of the perceived interval between action and effect). We used a novel paradigm for investigating explicit SoA more directly by asking participants in a forced-choice paradigm whether they caused a temporally predictable or a temporally unpredictable effect by their action. Additionally, we investigated how the temporal contiguity of the effects influenced the participants’ explicit SoA. In two experiments (48 participants each), there was no influence of temporal predictability on explicit SoA. Temporally predictable and unpredictable effects were equally often rated as own effects. Yet, effects after shorter delays were more often perceived as own effects than effects after longer delays. These findings are in line with previous results concerning the influence of effect delay on other explicit measures of SoA and concluding that explicit SoA is stronger for early effects.

Affiliations: 1: Cognition, Action, and Sustainability Unit, Department of Psychology, Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg, Germany


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