Effects of free choice and outcome valence on the sense of agency: evidence from measures of intentional binding and feelings of control

Exp Brain Res. 2018 Jan;236(1):129-139. doi: 10.1007/s00221-017-5112-3. Epub 2017 Oct 27.


Everyday actions can be characterized by whether they are freely chosen or commanded by external stimuli, and whether they produce pleasant or unpleasant outcomes. To assess how these aspects of actions affect the sense of agency, we asked participants to perform freely selected or instructed key presses which could produce pleasant or unpleasant chords. We obtained estimates of the key press-chord intervals and ratings of the feeling of control (FoC) over the outcomes. Interval estimates were used to assess intentional binding-the perceived temporal attraction between actions and their outcomes. Results showed stronger binding and higher FoC ratings in the free compared to instructed condition. Additionally, FoC was stronger for pleasant compared to unpleasant outcomes, and for pleasant outcomes that were produced by freely selected compared to instructed actions. These results highlight the importance of free choice and outcome valence on the SoA. They also reveal how freedom of action selection and pleasantness of action-outcomes can interact to affect the FoC.

Keywords: Action selection; Freedom; Intentional binding; Outcome valence; Sense of agency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult