The Active Sensing of Control Difference

iScience. 2020 May 22;23(5):101112. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2020.101112. Epub 2020 Apr 30.


In everyday life, people control objects in the world around them to varying degrees. The processes people actively use to establish their control, while interacting with an environment containing large ambiguity, remain unknown. This study examines how people explore their control over the environment and how they detect small differences in control among objects. In the experimental task, participants moved three dots on a screen and identified one dot over which the level of control is different from that of the other two. The results support a two-step behavior mechanism underlying the sensing of control difference: People first explore their overall control in the environment, and then the results of the initial exploration are used to selectively tune the direction (i.e., either more or less) of the detected control difference, ensuring efficient and rapid detection of the type of control difference that is potentially important for further action selections.

Keywords: Behavioral Neuroscience; Cognitive Neuroscience; Neuroscience.