I control therefore I do: Judgments of agency influence action selection

N. Karsh, B. Eitam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our sense of being agents, that is of willingly controlling both our own bodies and the external environment is ubiquitous if thin. Empirical and theoretical work on this 'sense of agency' has documented motivational, cognitive and neural influences on implicit (out of awareness) and explicit (conscious) judgments of agency. For example, fluency of action selection processes has been recently shown to affect judgments of one's degree of control over an external event. However, it is an open question whether and how such judgments of agency act as input to other processes. In this study we demonstrate that the opposite relationship between action selection and judgment of agency also exists. Specifically, we show that manipulating one's objective control over the environment influences both the speed and the frequency of performing an action associated with that control. This pattern bears a striking resemblance to the effect that tangible rewards have on action selection and suggests that positive control feedback is rewarding to the organism, consequently affecting action selection. If further corroborated this 'reward from control' may explain everyday addictions such as prolonged engagement in arcade games and pathological behaviors, such as stereotypy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-131
Number of pages10
StatePublished - 1 May 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


  • Action selection
  • Agency
  • Control
  • Motivation
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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