Never run a changing system: Action-effect contingency shapes prospective agency

Schwarz KA, Klaffehn AL, Hauke-Forman N, Muth F, Pfister R (2022)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2022


Book Volume: 229

Article Number: 105250

DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2022.105250


Human action control is highly sensitive to action-effect contingencies in the agent's environment. Here we show that the subjective sense of agency (SoA) contributes to this sensitivity as a subjective counterpart to instru-mental action decisions. Participants (N = 556) experienced varying reward probabilities and were prompted to give summary evaluations of their SoA after a series of action-effect episodes. Results first revealed a quadratic relation of contingency and SoA, driven by a disproportionally strong impact of perfect action-effect contin-gencies. In addition to this strong situational determinant of SoA, we observed small but reliable interindividual differences as a function of gender, assertiveness, and neuroticism that applied especially at imperfect action -effect contingencies. Crucially, SoA not only reflected the reward structure of the environment but was also associated with the agent's future action decisions across situational and personal factors. These findings call for a paradigm shift in research on perceived agency, away from the retrospective assessment of single behavioral episodes and towards a prospective view that draws on statistical regularities of an agent's environment.

Authors with CRIS profile

Additional Organisation(s)

Involved external institutions

How to cite


Schwarz, K.A., Klaffehn, A.L., Hauke-Forman, N., Muth, F., & Pfister, R. (2022). Never run a changing system: Action-effect contingency shapes prospective agency. Cognition, 229.


Schwarz, Katharina A., et al. "Never run a changing system: Action-effect contingency shapes prospective agency." Cognition 229 (2022).

BibTeX: Download