Physical and mental effort disrupts the implicit sense of agency

Emma E. Howard, S. Gareth Edwards, Andrew P. Bayliss (Lead Author)

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We investigated the effect of effort on implicit agency ascription for actions performed under varying levels of physical effort or cognitive load. People are able to estimate the interval between two events accurately, but they underestimate the interval between their own actions and their outcomes. This effect is known as ‘intentional binding’, and may provide feedback regarding the consequences of our actions. Concurrently with the interval reproduction task, our participants pulled sports resistance bands at high and low resistance levels (Experiments 1 and 2), or performed a working memory task with high and low set-sizes (Experiment 3). Intentional binding was greater under low than high effort. When the effort was task-related (Experiment 1), this effect depended on the individual’s explicit appraisal of exertion, while the effect of effort was evident at the group level when the effort was task-unrelated (physical, Experiment 2; mental, Experiment 3). These findings imply that the process of intentional binding is compromised when cognitive resources are depleted, either through physical or mental strain. We discuss this notion in relation to the integration of direct sensorimotor feedback with signals of agency and other instances of cognitive resource depletion and action control during strain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114–125
Number of pages12
Early online date6 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Sense of agency
  • temporal binding
  • intentional binding
  • experience of effort
  • time perception

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