Control used and control felt: Two sides of the agency coin

Cory A. Potts, Richard A. Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Agency has been defined as the sense of ownership and control of our actions, and the metacognition of agency has now been examined in a number of studies. Here we examined the relations between task demands, the feeling of being in control, and the feeling of using control. As task demands increase, we might feel as if we use a lot of control while feeling little control over the task. It therefore seems possible that the amount of control one feels they have used and how much in control one feels are separable components of the metacognition of control. In two experiments, we manipulated task demands and assessed these two aspects of metacognition. The source of task demand differed for the two experiments. In Experiment 1, we manipulated task demands by varying the sizes of targets in an aiming task. As predicted, we found that reports of control used increased, while reports of control felt decreased, for more difficult aiming conditions. In Experiment 2, we found a similar relation using a different source of demand: response conflict. We connect these reports of control to previous investigations of task demand and agency, as well as prominent conceptions of cognitive control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2304-2319
Number of pages16
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


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