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Difficult action decisions reduce the sense of agency: A study using the Eriksen flanker task

Sidarus, N; Haggard, P; (2016) Difficult action decisions reduce the sense of agency: A study using the Eriksen flanker task. Acta Psychologica , 166 pp. 1-11. 10.1016/j.actpsy.2016.03.003. Green open access

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Abstract

The sense of agency refers to the feeling that we are in control of our actions and, through them, of events in the outside world. Much research has focused on the importance of retrospectively matching predicted and actual action outcomes for a strong sense of agency. Yet, recent studies have revealed that a metacognitive signal about the fluency of action selection can prospectively inform our sense of agency. Fluent, or easy, action selection leads to a stronger sense of agency over action outcomes than dysfluent, or difficult, selection. Since these studies used subliminal priming to manipulate action selection, it remained unclear whether supraliminal stimuli affecting action selection would have similar effects. We used supraliminal flankers to manipulate action selection in response to a central target. Experiment 1 revealed that conflict in action selection, induced by incongruent flankers and targets, led to reduced agency ratings over an outcome that followed the participant's response, relative to neutral and congruent flanking conditions. Experiment 2 replicated this result, and extended it to free choice between alternative actions. Finally, Experiment 3 varied the stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between flankers and target. Action selection performance varied with SOA. Agency ratings were always lower in incongruent than congruent trials, and this effect did not vary across SOAs. Sense of agency is influenced by a signal that tracks conflict in action selection, regardless of the visibility of stimuli inducing conflict, and even when the timing of the stimuli means that the conflict may not affect performance.

Type: Article
Title: Difficult action decisions reduce the sense of agency: A study using the Eriksen flanker task
Location: Netherlands
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2016.03.003
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2016.03.003
Language: English
Additional information: © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Action selection, Awareness, Conflict, Flanker task, Sense of agency
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1487956
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