Non-Contingent Affective Outcomes Influence Feelings of Control

Open Access
Paolizzi, Sophie Germaine
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Richard Alan Carlson, Thesis Supervisor
  • Kenneth Levy, Honors Advisor
  • agency
  • control
  • psychology
  • cognition
Although a body of evidence suggests that the sense of agency, or feelings of control (FoC) over actions and their outcomes, is a central component of intentional action, little is known about how emotionality influences agency. Furthermore, this connection has not been fully explored using an explicit account of agency judgements. In a series of experiments, we asked participants to complete variations of a simple aiming task, in which words appeared in place of clicked targets. The affective content of the words was not contingent on participants’ performance. We then asked participants to judge their sense of agency. We found that FoC varied consistently across levels of affect, with the highest FoC for conditions with positive outcome words (e.g., ‘puppy’) and the lowest FoC for conditions with negative outcome words (e.g., ‘killer’). These results suggest affective outcomes can influence the sense of agency, even though the outcomes are not related to performance.