Motivation(s) from control: response-effect contingency and confirmation of sensorimotor predictions reinforce different levels of selection

Eitan Hemed, Noam Karsh, Ilya Mark-Tavger, Baruch Eitam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Humans and other animals live in dynamic environments. To reliably manipulate the environment and attain their goals they would benefit from a constant modification of motor-responding based on responses' current effect on the current environment. It is argued that this is exactly what is achieved by a mechanism that reinforces responses which have led to accurate sensorimotor predictions. We further show that evaluations of a response's effectiveness can occur simultaneously, driven by at least two different processes, each relying on different statistical properties of the feedback and affecting a different level of responding. Specifically, we show the continuous effect of (a) a sensorimotor process sensitive only to the conditional probability of effects given that the agent acted on the environment (i.e., action-effects) and of (b) a more abstract judgement or inference that is also sensitive to the conditional probabilities of occurrence of feedback given no action by the agent (i.e., inaction-effects). The latter process seems to guide action selection (e.g., should I act?) while the former the manner of the action's execution. This study is the first to show that different evaluation processes of a response’s effectiveness influence different levels of responding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1471-1497
Number of pages27
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by The Israel Science Foundation (ISF) grant number 339/16 and The Bi-national Science Foundation (BSF) grant number 2016/299 to B.E.

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Prof. Jan De Houwer for his insights on previous versions of the manuscript. We would like to thank Rotem Ellenbogen and Shiran Sharabi (Tel-Hai College) for their help in running Experiment 1, Lilach Yona, Amier Kardosh and Rivka Aviv (University of Haifa, Israel) for their help in running experiments 2 through 4.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Action effectiveness
  • Motivation
  • Reward
  • Sense of agency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)


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