Animal Cognition

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 231–238 | Cite as

Humans and monkeys distinguish between self-generated, opposing, and random actions

  • Justin J. CouchmanEmail author
Original Paper


The sense of self-agency results from monitoring the relationship between prior thoughts and action plans, sensorimotor information, and perceived outcomes. It is thought to be an important factor underlying self-recognition and self-awareness. Three experiments investigated the sense of self-agency in humans and rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). First, humans were asked to move a cursor with a joystick while several distractor cursors also moved on-screen. They were asked to identify either the cursor they were controlling, or a distractor using visual cues alone. Six rhesus macaques were then given a similar task in which they needed to identify a self-controlled cursor that was paired with several different types of distractors. Both groups were able to identify the self-controlled cursor, and monkeys performed best when the oppositely moving cursor was the distractor. A third experiment showed that humans, like macaques, use both perceptual and self-agency information to make decisions.


Agency Self-agency Self-monitoring Self-recognition Voluntary action Rhesus macaque 



I thank J. David Smith, Peter Pfordresher, James Sawusch, Eduardo Mercado, Mariana Coutinho, and Joe Boomer from the University at Buffalo, and Ted Evans, Megan Hoffman, Mike Beran, and David Washburn from the Language Research Center, Georgia State University for comments and assistance. This work was supported by NSF Grant BCS-0956993 and NIH Grant HD-061455.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyAlbright CollegeReadingUSA

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