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Effect before the cause

November 11, 201423:16

Together with Marc Ernst and Meike Scheller, we have published results from a study where we looked at how the order of action and external feedback influence our subjective sense of agency.

One would assume that agency can only be experienced if feedback temporally follows up to the action execution. One would also assume that this is a fixed constraint, as the law that cause comes before the effect is one of the most fundamental laws of physics. Against this intuition, we found that humans have a plastic boundary to decide whether or not they might have caused something that happened just before their action, and that this boundary can be relaxed postdictively based on whether later events favor a different causal interpretation of the scene or not.

Check out the final draft of our paper for more details.

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