Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 7, pp 2123–2135 | Cite as

Violation of expectations about movement and goal achievement leads to Sense of Agency reduction

  • Riccardo Villa
  • Emmanuele Tidoni
  • Giuseppina Porciello
  • Salvatore Maria Aglioti
Research Article


The control of one’s own movements and of their impact on the external world generates a feeling of control referred to as Sense of Agency (SoA). SoA is experienced when actions match predictions and is reduced by unpredicted events. The present study investigated the contribution of monitoring two fundamental components of action—movement execution and goal achievement—that have been most often explored separately in previous research. We have devised a new paradigm in which participants performed goal-directed actions while viewing an avatar’s hand in a mixed-reality scenario. The hand performed either the same action or a different one, simultaneously or after various delays. Movement of the virtual finger and goal attainment were manipulated, so that they could match or conflict with the participants’ expectations. We collected judgments of correspondence (an explicit index of SoA that overcomes the tendency to over-attribute actions to oneself) by asking participants if the observed action was synchronous or not with their action. In keeping with previous studies, we found that monitoring both movement execution and goal attainment is relevant for SoA. Moreover, we expanded previous findings by showing that movement information may be a more constant source of SoA modulation than goal information. Indeed, an incongruent movement impaired SoA irrespective of delay duration, while a missed goal did so only when delays were short. Our novel paradigm allowed us to simultaneously manipulate multiple action features, a characteristic that makes it suitable for investigating the contribution of different sub-components of action in modulating SoA in healthy and clinical populations.


Sense of Agency Movement Goal Action monitoring Mixed-reality 



The study was supported by PRIN grant (Progetti di Ricerca di Rilevante Interesse Nazionale, Edit. 2015, Prot. 20159CZFJK) and by European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant (eHONESTY) to SMA. We thank Eilidh McCann ( for proofreading the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

221_2018_5286_MOESM1_ESM.docx (28 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 28 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology“Sapienza” University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.IRCCS, Santa Lucia FoundationRomeItaly
  3. 3.Centre for Studies and Research in Cognitive Neuroscience and Department of PsychologyUniversity of BolognaCesenaItaly

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