Judgments of agency are affected by sensory noise without recruiting metacognitive processing

  1. Marika Constant  Is a corresponding author
  2. Roy Salomon
  3. Elisa Filevich
  1. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
  2. Bar-Ilan University, Israel


Acting in the world is accompanied by a sense of agency, or experience of control over our actions and their outcomes. As humans, we can report on this experience through judgments of agency. These judgments often occur under noisy conditions. We examined the computations underlying judgments of agency, in particular under the influence of sensory noise. Building on previous literature, we studied whether judgments of agency incorporate uncertainty in the same way that confidence judgments do, which would imply that the former share computational mechanisms with metacognitive judgments. In two tasks, participants rated agency, or confidence in a decision about their agency, over a virtual hand that tracked their movements, either synchronously or with a delay and either under high or low noise. We compared the predictions of two computational models to participants' ratings and found that agency ratings, unlike confidence, were best explained by a model involving no estimates of sensory noise. We propose that agency judgments reflect first-order measures of the internal signal, without involving metacognitive computations, challenging the assumed link between the two cognitive processes.

Data availability

Raw data is publicly available under https://gitlab.com/MarikaConstant/metaAgency.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Marika Constant

    Department of Psychology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-3756-0362
  2. Roy Salomon

    Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-6688-617X
  3. Elisa Filevich

    Department of Psychology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-1158-8220


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (337619223 / RTG2386)

  • Marika Constant

Volkswagen Foundation (91620)

  • Marika Constant
  • Elisa Filevich

Israeli Science Foundation (ISF 1169/17)

  • Roy Salomon

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.


Human subjects: Subjects gave signed, informed consent before starting the experiment. The ethics committee of the Institute of Psychology at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin approved the study (Nr. 2020-29), which conformed to the Declaration of Helsinki.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Valentin Wyart, École normale supérieure, PSL University, INSERM, France

Version history

  1. Preprint posted: April 29, 2021 (view preprint)
  2. Received: July 20, 2021
  3. Accepted: January 19, 2022
  4. Accepted Manuscript published: January 20, 2022 (version 1)
  5. Version of Record published: February 7, 2022 (version 2)


© 2022, Constant et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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  1. Marika Constant
  2. Roy Salomon
  3. Elisa Filevich
Judgments of agency are affected by sensory noise without recruiting metacognitive processing
eLife 11:e72356.

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