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01-07-2009 | Original Article | Uitgave 4/2009 Open Access

Psychological Research 4/2009

Action selection and action awareness

Psychological Research > Uitgave 4/2009
Dorit Wenke, Florian Waszak, Patrick Haggard


Human actions are often classified as either internally generated, or externally specified in response to environmental cues. These two modes of action selection have distinct neural bases, but few studies investigated how the mode of action selection affects the subjective experience of action. We measured the experience of action using the subjective compression of the interval between actions and their effects, known as ‘temporal binding’. Participants performed either a left or a right key press, either in response to a specific cue, or as they freely chose. Moreover, the time of each keypress could either be explicitly cued to occur in one of two designated time intervals, or participants freely chose in which interval to act. Each action was followed by a specific tone. Participants judged the time of their actions or the time of the tone. Temporal binding was found for both internally generated and for stimulus-based actions. However, the amount of binding depended on whether or not both the choice and the timing of action were selected in the same way. Stronger binding was observed when both action choice and action timing were internally generated or externally specified, compared to conditions where the two parameters were selected by different routes. Our result suggests that temporal action–effect binding depends on how actions are selected. Binding is strongest when actions result from a single mode of selection.

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