The Sense of Agency as Tracking Control

PLoS One. 2016 Oct 14;11(10):e0163892. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0163892. eCollection 2016.


Does sense of agency (SoA) arise merely from action-outcome associations, or does an additional real-time process track each step along the chain? Tracking control predicts that deviant intermediate steps between action and outcome should reduce SoA. In two experiments, participants learned mappings between two finger actions and two tones. In later test blocks, actions triggered a robot hand moving either the same or a different finger, and also triggered tones, which were congruent or incongruent with the mapping. The perceived delay between actions and tones gave a proxy measure for SoA. Action-tone binding was stronger for congruent than incongruent tones, but only when the robot movement was also congruent. Congruent tones also had reduced N1 amplitudes, but again only when the robot movement was congruent. We suggest that SoA partly depends on a real-time tracking control mechanism, since deviant intermediate action of the robot reduced SoA over the tone.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Hand / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Robotics*
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

E.A.C is supported by the FRS-F.N.R.S ( PH and AD were supported by EU FP7 grant VERE WP1, and by ERC Advanced Grant HUMVOL ( PH was additionally supported by an ESRC Professorial Research Fellowship. AC is a Research Director with the F.R.S.-FNRS. This work was partly supported by BELSPO IAP ( grant P7/33 to AC, PH, & ZD and by ERC Advanced Grant RADICAL to AC ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.