Affective Grounding of Sense of Agency and Action Regulation (AffAct)

To reach our goals we need to be able to tell whether our actions can successfully influence our environment. Sense of agency is the feeling of being in control of one’s actions and their effects. The experience of agency is vital for self-determined behavior. It is a key aspect of the minimal self-representation in humans, which the DFG Priority Program „Active Self” seeks to investigate. Agency is most important when we try to reach desirable states or avoid negative consequences. For example, we often rely on positive and negative feedback to infer if we can successfully control our environment. Therefore, sense of agency is assumed to be bound to the affective processing of action outcomes. However, most previous research projects investigated sensory or cognitive determinants of agency experience without any affective value. As a result, it is still not clear in how far the affective valence of action effects plays a functional role for sense of agency. The goal of this project is to lay the groundwork for a scientific model which can predict how agency experience and affective processing influence each other, and in how far this impacts self-determined behavior. Based on our previous work on sense of agency, affective processing, and action regulation we will investigate a) how the sense of agency modulates the processing of affective feedback, b) how agency-related changes in affective processing influence our ability to self-regulate behavior, and c) under which circumstances affective information determines the emergence of agency experience. Our project will combine EEG measurements of neural processes related to affective and sensory processing with experimental manipulations of agency experience and action regulation. In this way we aim to contribute to the DFG Priority Program “The Active Self”, by elucidating affective processing as one potential core mechanism underlying the sense of self during goal-directed actions.

Prof. Dr. Schütz-Bosbach