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Knowledge, Uncertainty and the Sense of Control over Your Actions

Project Description:


The subjective feeling that we can control and willingly execute some of our actions is central to our sense of self and the interaction with the external world. How does this sense of control come about? Previous studies have shown that a number of elements influence our sense of control. In navigating the environment as agentic human beings, we pick up a rich variety of cues that shape our subjective perception of our ability to control actions. For example, the positive or negative valence of the outcome resulting from our actions has an effect on the sense of control. A little investigated question is to what extent epistemic factors, i.e., our level of knowledge about the environment and the context of choice, may also shape our feeling of controlling actions. This question is crucial to the extent that our actions and choices depend on gathering information about the environment and act upon them. Consider, for example, a situation in which you get the chance to choose between two options, knowing that a further, possibly better, option exists but is precluded to you. How would you feel? How would this awareness influence your choices? Our ongoing project investigates whether uncertainty about the options we have may change the subjective feeling of being in control of the course of action we actually pursued. To do so, we combine philosophical analysis with experimental techniques from psychology and cognitive science. A short video presenting the project will be made available soon.


  • Sofia Bonicalzi
  • Ophelia Deroy
  • Marwa El Zein
  • Laura Schmitz