Skip to main content

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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

References

  1. Amsterdam B (1972) Mirror self-image reactions before age two. Dev Psychobiol 5:297–305

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Averbeck BB, Chafee MV, Crowe DA, Georgopoulos AP (2002) Parallel processing of serial movements in prefrontal cortex. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99:13172–13177

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Blakemore SJ, Frith CD, Wolpert DW (2001) The cerebellum is involved in predicting the sensory consequences of action. NeuroReport 12:1879–1885

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Briscoe RE (2011) The elusive experience of agency. Top Cogn Sci 3:262–267

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Cheney DL, Seyfarth RM (1990) How monkeys see the world. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  6. Couchman JJ (2012) Self-agency in rhesus monkeys. Biol Lett 8:39–41

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Couchman JJ, Coutinho MVC, Beran MJ, Smith JD (2010) Beyond stimulus cues and reinforcement signals: a new approach to animal metacognition. J Compart Psychol 124:356–368

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Couchman JJ, Beasley R, Pfordresher PQ (2012) The experience of agency in sequence production with altered feedback. Conscious Cogn 21:186–203

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Cowey A, Stoerig P (1995) Blindsight in monkeys. Nature 373:247–249

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Desmurget M, Reilly KT, Richard N, Szathmari A, Mottolese C, Sirigu A (2009) Movement intention after parietal cortex stimulation in humans. Science 324:811–813

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Gallup GG (1982) Self-awareness and the emergence of mind in primates. Am J Primatol 2:237–248

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Gallup GG, Anderson JR, Shilito DJ (2002) In: Bekoff M, Allen C, Burghardt GM (eds)The cognitive animal: empirical and theoretical perspectives on animal cognition, MIT Press, Cambridge

  13. Hare B, Call J, Agnetta B, Tomasello M (2000) Chimpanzees know what conspecifics do and do not see. Anim Behav 59:771–785

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Jensen G, Altschul D, Terrace H (2013) Monkeys would rather see and do: preference for agentic control in rhesus macaques. Exp Brain Res 229:429–442

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Kaneko T, Tomonaga M (2011) The perception of self-agency in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Proc R Soc B: Biol Sci 278:3694–3702

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Kircher TTJ, Leube DT (2003) Self-consciousness, self-agency, and schizophrenia. Conscious Cogn 12:656–669

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Lethmate J, Dücker G (1973) Untersuchungen zum selbsterkennen im spiegel bei orangutans und einigen anderen Affenarten. Z Tierpsychol 33:248–269

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Luu P, Flaisch T, Tucker DM (2000) Medial frontal cortex in action monitoring. J Neurosci 20:464–469

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. Macellini S, Ferrari PF, Bonini L, Fogassi L, Paukner A (2010) A modified mark test for own-body recognition in pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina). Anim Cogn 13:631–639

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Matsumoto K, Tanaka K (2004) Conflict and cognitive control. Science 303:969–970

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Metcalfe J, Greene MJ (2007) Metacognition of agency. J Exp Psychol Gen 136:184–199

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Pacherie E (2012) The phenomenology of joint action: self-agency vs. joint-agency. In: Seemann A (ed) Joint attention: new developments. MIT Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  23. Pepperberg IM, Garcia SE, Jackson EC, Marconi S (1995) Mirror use by African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus). J Compart Psychol 109:182–195

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Plotnik JM, Lair R, Suphachoksahakun W, de Waal FBM (2011) Elephants know when they need a helping trunk in a cooperative task. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108:5116–5121

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Prior H, Schwarz A, Güntürkün O (2008) Mirror-induced behavior in the magpie (Pica pica): evidence of self-recognition. PLOS Bio 6:1642–1650

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Reiss D, Marino L (2001) Mirror self-recognition in the bottlenose dolphin: a case of cognitive convergence. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98:5937–5942

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Repp BH, Knoblich G (2007) Toward a psychophysics of agency: detecting gain and loss of control over auditory action effects. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 33:469–482

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Ridderinkhof KR, Ullsperger M, Crone EA, Nieuwenhuis S (2004) The role of medial frontal cortex in cognitive control. Science 306:443–447

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Smith JD, Couchman JJ, Beran MJ (2012) The highs and lows of theoretical interpretation in animal-metacognition research. Philos Trans R Soc B 367:1297–1309

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Spence I, Feng J (2010) Video games and spatial cognition. Rev Gen Psychol 14:92–104

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Suarez SD, Gallup GG (1986) Face touching in primates: a closer look. Am J Primatol 11:239–244

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Terrace HS, Metcalfe J (2005) The missing link in cognition: origins of self-reflective consciousness. Oxford University Press, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  33. Tomasello M, Call J (1997) Primate cognition. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  34. Washburn DA, Rumbaugh DM (1992) Testing primates with joystick-based automated apparatus: lessons from the Language Research Center’s Computerized Test System. Behav Res Methods Instrum Comput 24:157–164

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Wegner DM (2002) The illusion of conscious will. MIT Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Justin J. Couchman.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Couchman, J.J. Humans and monkeys distinguish between self-generated, opposing, and random actions. Anim Cogn 18, 231–238 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-014-0792-6

Download citation

Keywords

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