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Title: The effect of effort and individual differences on the implicit sense of agency
Author: Howard, Emma
ISNI:       0000 0004 6351 0710
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2016
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The experience of feeling responsible for the outcomes of one's actions is known as the sense of agency. The phenomenon of reduced perceived temporal proximity between actions and their effects is thought to implicitly index the sense of agency, and is known as temporal or intentional binding. The optimal cue integration account indicates that the sense of agency is dependent of the integration of several cues. This thesis uses temporal binding to investigate instances which afford cues that may hinder the generation of agency. Chapters 3 and 4 examine the modulatory roles of physical and mental effort finding that the implicit sense of agency reduced under physical and mental strain. In Chapter 5, electroencephalography was used to investigate the influence of mental effort on neural response to action outcomes. Concordant with previous findings, neural responses to self-generated outcomes were reduced (i.e. attenuated readiness potentials and N1 components), however, the effect of effort was less reliable, providing limited evidence for the role of individual task difficulty on the attenuation of the readiness potential. Chapter 6 found that high levels of (subclinical) schizotypy weakened the sense of agency, whereby temporal binding was less distinguished across conditions of agency and no agency. In Chapter 7, it was shown that the affective content of social stimuli did not modulate temporal binding, nor did individual differences in social anxiety. Overall, these findings support the notion that the sense of agency is dependent on the availability of cognitive resources, and in contexts in which agency cues concurrently deplete these resources, either by physical or mental effort, or in individuals with tendencies to attribute agency inappropriately, agency is weakened. Nevertheless, the lack of modulation by emotional stimuli and by anxiety provide informative boundary conditions for these effects. Beyond contributing to our understanding of this key aspect of human experience, work in this area could influence how society considers responsibility in everyday life and in law, and how aberrant experiences of agency can be understood in disease.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available