Revisiting the Link between Body and Agency: Visual Movement Congruency Enhances Intentional Binding but Is Not Body-Specific

Abstract

Embodiment and agency are key aspects of how we perceive ourselves that have typically been associated with independent mechanisms. Recent work, however, has suggested that these mechanisms are related. The sense of agency arises from recognising a causal influence on the external world. This influence is typically realised through bodily movements and thus the perception of the bodily self could also be crucial for agency. We investigated whether a key index of agency textendash intentional binding textendash was modulated by body-specific information. Participants judged the interval between pressing a button and a subsequent tone. We used virtual reality to manipulate two aspects of movement feedback. First, form: participants viewed a virtual hand or sphere. Second, movement congruency: the viewed object moved congruently or incongruently with the participant’s hidden hand. Both factors, form and movement congruency, significantly influenced embodiment. However, only movement congruency influenced intentional binding. Binding was increased for congruent compared to incongruent movement feedback irrespective of form. This shows that the comparison between viewed and performed movements provides an important cue for agency, whereas body-specific visual form does not. We suggest that embodiment and agency mechanisms both depend on comparisons across sensorimotor signals but that they are influenced by distinct factors.

Publication
Scientific Reports, (8), 1, pp. 196, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-18492-7