Sense of agency in infancy: Testing for causal model building

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The sense of agency has been described as the experience that is sensed when we performed our own actions, such that we control events in the outside world through them. The development of sense of agency is crucial for children to be able to learn from their experience and interaction with the surrounding world. To date, evidence of a sense of agency in infancy is limited to a behavioral data pattern. However, a simulation with no capability to build internal model was able to replicate a similar data pattern. Therefore, additional investigation on different phenomena is necessary. It is assumed that to experience a sense of agency, an internal model is required. Having an internal model would enable one to make predictions upon it. When there is a mismatch between the predicted events with the actual events, a mismatch response in terms of the brain’s event related potential is elicited. In this study, we proposed to investigate the presence of sense of agency in infants based on how the brain would react to a violation of its internal model. In this study, we investigated 3-to-4-month old infants’ movement response along with the ERP response to movement in different experimental phases. There were three phases, namely baseline, connect, and disconnect. One of the infants’ limb movement would trigger stimulus effect during the connect phase, whereas baseline corresponds to the phase before and disconnect corresponds to the phase after. The omission of the movement’s effect was applied in the disconnect phase and aimed to violate infants’ expectations. The results indicated infants experience violation of expectation in response to the omission of their movement effect, as shown in the ERP mismatch response. It indicates that infants built an internal model linking their movement with its effect, suggesting the presence of sense of agency.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen