Sense of Agency: An investigation in typical, atypical and clinical populations

Cioffi, Maria Cristina. 2017. Sense of Agency: An investigation in typical, atypical and clinical populations. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The sense of agency (SoA) refers to the feeling of control towards our actions and their effects in the outside world. The aim of this thesis was to study SoA to gain a better understanding of it and how it originated, particularly in light of the cue integration approach to SoA. Additionally, this work aimed to bring greater understanding of agency changes in populations where there has been little or no agency research.

To achieve this, we used paradigms that created agentic uncertainty by modulating external agency cues.

We found that the susceptibility to manipulation of external agency cues predicted schizotypy scores in healthy adults. We also showed that SoA in patients with anosognosia for hemiplegia is overall dominated by their intention to move, while external agency cues are discounted.
When examining changes in SoA throughout adulthood, our results suggested that older adults rely more on internal agency cues and discount external cues; we showed that this is potentially a result of increased reliance on internal agency cues.

For the first time, we investigated changes in SoA in people with Mirror-touch synaesthesia. We found that their experience of agency is more malleable than in non-synaesthetes, perhaps due to an enhanced saliency of external cues in the creation of SoA.

Having tested SoA in these groups, we looked at the neural mechanisms that might be responsible for the observed SoA changes. We used transcranial Direct Current Stimulation to test the contribution of right Temporo Parietal Junction to agency processing, in response to the same tasks used in the previous chapters.

Lastly, we investigated the relationship between sense of agency and sense of ownership, a theme running throughout this thesis.

We suggest that the cue integration approach is a valid framework to understand SoA and discuss future directions.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Additional Information:

This is an edited version of the thesis with third-party copyright material removed.


Sense of agency, vicarious agency, anosognosia, mirror-touch synaesthesia, older adulthood

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31 October 2017

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Date Deposited:

18 Dec 2017 10:51

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:42


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