ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

心理学报 ›› 2023, Vol. 55 ›› Issue (12): 1932-1948.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2023.01932

• 研究报告 • 上一篇    下一篇


钟毅平(), 牛娜娜, 范伟, 任梦梦, 李梅   

  1. 湖南师范大学教育科学学院心理系; 认知与人类行为湖南省重点实验室; 湖南师范大学交叉科学研究院, 长沙 410081
  • 收稿日期:2022-10-24 发布日期:2023-10-16 出版日期:2023-12-25
  • 通讯作者: 钟毅平, E-mail:
  • 基金资助:

The influence of voluntary action and social distance on sense of agency: Evidence from behavioral and ERPs study

ZHONG Yiping(), NIU Nana, FAN Wei, REN Mengmeng, LI Mei   

  1. Department of Psychology, Hunan Normal University; Cognition and Human Behavior Key Laboratory of Hunan Province; Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies, Hunan Normal University, Changsha 410081, China
  • Received:2022-10-24 Online:2023-10-16 Published:2023-12-25


本文通过2个实验, 考察动作自主性与社会距离对主动控制感的影响, 以厘清不道德事件下主动控制感降低的认知神经机制。实验1采用时间估计法, 在行为层面上考察动作自主性对主动控制感的影响以及社会距离的调节作用, 实验2采用事件相关电位技术进一步探究动作自主性与社会距离如何交互影响主动控制感, 并试图检验外显主动控制感的结果稳健性。结果发现, 服从命令时, 相较于电击陌生人, 电击朋友的决策诱发了更大的P3波幅, 且音调反馈时诱发了更负的N1波幅, 内隐主动控制感更强; 在外显主动控制感上, 仅发现自由选择时控制感和责任感评分比服从命令时更高。结果表明社会距离自下而上地调节了自主性对内隐主动控制感的影响, 而外显主动控制感上个体有意识地产生了道德推脱。

关键词: 主动控制感, 动作自主性, 社会距离, 时间间隔估计, 事件相关电位(ERPs)


Sense of agency refers to the subjective experience of controlling one’s actions and, through them, external events, which is the core element that makes individuals responsible for their behavior to foster social cohesion. Recent studies have revealed that people potentially experience reduced sense of agency for harming others by claiming that they were obeying orders. However, little is known about the cognitive neural mechanism behind the reduced sense of agency when individuals are forced to inflict physical harm on others.

We adopted a temporal estimation task to investigate the internal mechanism of voluntary action on the sense of agency and the moderating effect of social distance, as measured by event-related potentials (ERPs). In Experiment 1, participants were asked to trade monetary gains for themselves off against painful electric stimuli experienced by friends or strangers, subjectively estimated the perceptual temporal interval between keypress actions (i.e., free, or coercive actions) and consequent neutral outcomes, and rated the feeling of control and responsibility. Experiment 2 further investigated the cognitive neurobiological mechanisms of the interaction between voluntary action and social distance on the sense of agency using event-related potential (ERP) technology and attempted to examine the robustness of explicit sense of agency.

Experiment 1 found that under the coercive condition, the time interval estimation for harming friends was shorter than for harming strangers, indicating a stronger implicit sense of agency. Regarding the explicit sense of agency, our study only found that participants in the free condition reported higher feeling of control and responsibility compared to those in the coercive condition. In Experiment 2, these results indicated that when participants obeyed commands to harm friends, the P3 was larger than when they obeyed commands to harm strangers. More importantly, the N1 was more negative in response to the auditory tones when participants obeyed commands to harm friends than when they obeyed commands to harm strangers. However, regarding the explicit sense of agency, our study only found that participants in the free condition reported higher feeling of control and responsibility than those in the coercive condition, which were not influenced by the social distance. Additionally, there was a significant correlation between the ratings of feeling of control and the decision- induced N2.

These results indicate that social distance moderates the implicit sense of agency in the face of serious unethical outcomes, while participants’ feeling of control and responsibility were not affected by social distance due to self−serving bias. When obeying orders, individuals consciously exhibit moral disengagement. The present study has demonstrated that implicit and explicit sense of agency have different processing mechanisms, which broadens the previous insight into understanding the sense of agency. We discuss the implications of utilizing free choice and closing the social distance with others as significant strategies for those experiencing the abnormal sense of agency.

Key words: sense of agency, voluntary action, social distance, time interval estimation, event-related potential (ERPs)