1 Department of Clinical Medicine - Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Department of Clinical Medicine, Health, Aarhus University2 Department of Clinical Medicine, Health, Aarhus University3 Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck University of London4 Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London5 Department of Clinical Medicine - Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Department of Clinical Medicine, Health, Aarhus University
An experiment on memory for mens rea
How do we know whether our own actions were voluntary or involuntary? Intentional theories of sense of agency suggest that we consciously perceive the intentions that accompany our actions, but reconstructive theories suggest that we perceive our actions only through the body movements and other effects that they produce. Intentions would then be mere confabulations, and not bona fide experiences. Previous work on voluntary action has focused on immediate experiences of authorship, and few studies have considered memory for voluntary actions. We devised an experiment in which both voluntary action and involuntary movement always occurred at the same time, but could either involve the same hand (congruent condition), or different hands (incongruent condition). When signals from the voluntary and involuntary movements involved different hands, they could therefore potentially interfere in memory. We found that recall of a voluntary action was unaffected by an incongruent involuntary movement. In contrast, recall of an involuntary movement was strongly influenced by an incongruent voluntary action. Our results demonstrate an “intentional capture” of body movement by voluntary actions, in support of intentional theories of agency, but contrary to reconstructive theories. When asked to recall both actions and movements, people's responses are shaped by memory of what they intended to do, rather than by how their body moved.
Neuropsychologia, 2014, Vol 55, Issue 1, p. 122-127
Intentional capture; Sense of agency; Transcranial magnetic stimulation; Volition