Investigating the sense of agency and its relation to subclinical traits using a novel task

Penton, Tegan; Wang, Xingquan; Catmur, Caroline and Bird, Geoffrey. 2022. Investigating the sense of agency and its relation to subclinical traits using a novel task. Experimental Brain Research, 240(5), pp. 1399-1410. ISSN 0014-4819 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Tasks measuring the sense of agency often manipulate the predictability of action outcomes by introducing spatial deviation. However, the extent to which spatial predictability of an outcome influences the sense of agency when spatial deviation is controlled for remains untested. We used a novel task to investigate the effect of several factors (action–outcome contingency, spatial deviation, and spatial predictability when controlling for spatial deviation of action outcomes) on the sense of agency. We also investigated trait predictors of metacognition of agency—the degree to which participants’ confidence in their agency judgements corresponds to the accuracy of those judgements. Initial and replication samples completed contingency, deviation, and predictability versions of the task. Across samples, participants’ sense of agency was impacted by action–outcome contingency and spatial deviation of action outcomes. Manipulation of the spatial predictability of action outcomes did not reliably impact the sense of agency. Metacognition of agency was related to alexithymic traits—higher alexithymia scores were associated with reduced metacognition of agency.

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The datasets generated and analysed during the current study are available in the OSF repository,

The online version of the article contains supplementary material available at

This work was supported by a doctoral studentship from the Medical Research Council [MR/M50175X/1 to T.P.]; the Economic and Social Research Council [ES/R007527/1 to G.B.] and the Baily Thomas Charitable Trust [to GB].


Action–outcome contingency, Sense of agency, Metacognition of agency, Individual diferences, Alexithymia

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21 February 2022Accepted
5 April 2022Published Online
May 2022Published

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Date Deposited:

22 Apr 2022 08:55

Last Modified:

27 Apr 2022 12:16

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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