The neural basis of action-effect anticipation and sense of agency


Wednesday, 25 October, 2017 -
14:00 to 15:00


Room 1616, Mathews Building, UNSW Sydney


School of Psychology

Type of event: 


Audience / Guests: 

Public / All

Performing an action typically involves some anticipation of the likely outcome. For instance, when flicking a light switch, we anticipate that this will generate light. In addition to being important for action selection, such anticipation also influences the way that we perceive the sensory consequences of our actions. Self-triggered events differ to externally triggered stimuli with respect to the perceived timing of their occurrence (intentional binding) as well as their intensity (sensory attenuation). These phenomena are normally attributed to forward action models, such that when action prediction is consistent with changes in our environment, our experience of these effects is altered. Since a match normally reflects achievement of the goal of the action, these differences have been related to the sense of agency – the feeling of being in control of our actions and their ensuing effects on the environment. This talk will begin by discussing the degree to which previous research supports the role of motor-prediction in these phenomena. Next, Dr. Gethin Hughes will present data from experiments using both behavioural and physiological measures (electroencephalography), which suggest that sensory attenuation but not intentional binding are driven by identity specific motor predictions. Dr. Hughes will conclude by discussing the neurophysiological basis of action-effect anticipation and sense of agency.


Dr. Gethin Hughes is currently a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex, UK. He has a broad range of interests in the field of social cognitive neuroscience. Most of his previous work has investigated various aspects of action control, action awareness, and sense of agency. Much of this research has been conducted using electroencephalography (EEG). Ongoing projects in his lab include the role of physiological arousal in time perception and metacognition, the role of object knowledge in action understanding, and implicit measures of immanent justice reasoning. Together with collaborators in Belgium he also investigates proactive control in insomnia, and the role of observational learning in the development of chronic pain. 

Gethin completed his BSc, MSc and PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. He worked as a post-doc at the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, and then at the Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Universite Paris Descartes. He joined the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex in September 2012.