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Journal Article

Doing good or bad: How interactions between action and emotion expectations shape the sense of agency


Schütz-Bosbach,  Simone
Max Planck Research Group Body and Self, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Experimental Psychology, Institute of Psychology, Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen, Germany;

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Gentsch, A., Weiss, C., Spengler, S., Synofzik, M., & Schütz-Bosbach, S. (2015). Doing good or bad: How interactions between action and emotion expectations shape the sense of agency. Social Neuroscience, 10(4), 418-430. doi:10.1080/17470919.2015.1006374.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0029-7669-7
The emotional consequences of our own and others’ actions can influence our agentive self-awareness in social contexts. Positive outcomes are usually linked to the self and used for self-enhancement, whereas negative outcomes are more often attributed to others. In most situations, these causal attribution tendencies seem to be immediately present instead of involving reflective interpretations of the action experience. To address the question at which level of the cognitive hierarchy emotions and action perception interact, we adopted a social reward anticipation paradigm. Here, participants or their interaction partner received positive or negative action outcomes and performed speeded attribution choices regarding causation of the action outcome. Event-Related Potential (ERP) results showed that the emotional value of an outcome already influenced the classical N1 self-attenuation effect, with reduced embodied agentive self-awareness for negative outcomes at initial sensorimotor stages. At the level of the N300, the degree of updating and affective evaluation associated with the respective attributive decision was reflected and particularly associated to attribution tendencies for positive events. Our results show an early interaction between emotion and agency processes, and suggest that self-serving cognition can be grounded in embodied knowledge from low-level sensorimotor mechanisms.