Non-motor cues do not generate the perception of self-agency: A critique of cue-integration

Conscious Cogn. 2022 Aug;103:103359. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2022.103359. Epub 2022 Jun 7.


How does one know that (s)he is the causal agent of their motor actions? Earlier theories of sense of agency have attributed the capacity for perception of self-agency to the comparator process of the motor-control/action system. However, with the advent of the findings implying a role of non-motor cues (like affective states, beliefs, primed concepts, and social instructions or previews of actions) in the sense of agency literature, the perception of self-agency is hypothesized to be generated even by non-motor cues (based on their relative reliability or weighting estimate); and, this theory is come to be known as the cue-integration of sense of agency. However, the cue-integration theory motivates skepticism about whether it is falsifiable and whether it is plausible that non-motor cues that are sensorily unrelated to typical sensory processes of self-agency have the capacity to produce a perception of self-agency. To substantiate this skepticism, I critically analyze the experimental operationalizations of cue-integration-with the (classic) vicarious agency experiment as a case study-to show that (1) the participants in these experiments are ambiguous about their causal agency over motor actions, (2) thus, these participants resort to reports of self-agency as heuristic judgments (under ambiguity) rather than due to cue-integration per se, and (3) there might not have occurred cue-integration based self-agency reports if these experimental operationalizations had eliminated ambiguity about the causal agency. Thus, I conclude that the reports of self-agency (observed in typical non-motor cues based cue-integration experiments) are not instances of perceptual effect-that are hypothesized to be produced by non-motor cues-but are of heuristic judgment effect.

Keywords: Attribute substitution; Cue integration; Sense of agency; Uncertainty.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cues*
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Perception
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reproducibility of Results