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Title: An experimental investigation of the sense of agency in people with subclinical checking tendencies
Author: Nemeth, Joseph
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2013
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The sense of agency (SoA) refers to the subjective experience of controlling one's own actions and resultant effects. Recent research has indicated possible underlying SoA abnormalities in people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OGD), although these findings are inconsistent. This study attempted to clarify the nature of SoA alterations for people with subclinical checking tendencies compared with non-checking individuals. This was achieved by measuring both explicit and implicit aspects of the SoA in two separate tasks. In a 'Judgement of Agency' task, participants first engaged in a learning phase in which associations between actions (button press) and effect (tone type) were established. In the subsequent testing phase, the degree by which the tone following the action matched participants' learned expectations was varied. Participants provided SoA ratings for each trial. The checking group (n = 20) recorded significantly higher agency judgements than the non-checking group (n = 22), indicating a greater explicit sense of agency. The second task required participants to make time estimates for their actions and resultant effects, which provided a measurement for the subjective temporal compression of the interval between an action and effect. This phenomenon is known as 'Intentional Binding', and is recognised as an implicit measure of SoA This intentional binding effect was greater for the checking group (n = 22) compared with the non-checking group (n = 23). Together, these findings indicate that subclinical checkers experience greater explicit and implicit SoA compared with non-checking individuals. The findings are discussed in relation to previously described cognitive features of OCD such as intolerance of uncertainty, inflated sense of responsibility, and feelings of incompleteness. Potential implications for clinical practice are explored.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Psychol.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available