Impaired self-agency inferences in schizophrenia: The role of cognitive capacity and causal reasoning style

M. Prikken*, A. van der Weiden, R. S. Kahn, H. Aarts, N. E.M. van Haren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background The sense of self-agency, i.e., experiencing oneself as the cause of one's own actions, is impaired in patients with schizophrenia. Normally, inferences of self-agency are enhanced when actual outcomes match with pre-activated outcome information, where this pre-activation can result from explicitly set goals (i.e., goal-based route) or implicitly primed outcome information (i.e., prime-based route). Previous research suggests that patients show specific impairments in the prime-based route, implicating that they do not rely on matches between implicitly available outcome information and actual action-outcomes when inferring self-agency. The question remains: Why? Here, we examine whether neurocognitive functioning and self-serving bias (SSB) may explain abnormalities in patients’ agency inferences. Methods Thirty-six patients and 36 healthy controls performed a commonly used agency inference task to measure goal- and prime-based self-agency inferences. Neurocognitive functioning was assessed with the Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia (BACS) and the SSB was assessed with the Internal Personal and Situational Attributions Questionnaire. Results Results showed a substantial smaller effect of primed outcome information on agency experiences in patients compared with healthy controls. Whereas patients and controls differed on BACS and marginally on SSB scores, these differences were not related to patients’ impairments in prime-based agency inferences. Conclusions Patients showed impairments in prime-based agency inferences, thereby replicating previous studies. This finding could not be explained by cognitive dysfunction or SSB. Results are discussed in the context of the recent surge to understand and examine deficits in agency experiences in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-34
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a personal grant of the Dutch Scientific Organization to Dr. N.E.M van Haren (NWO - VIDI 452-11-014). The funding source played no role in the completion of this study or the preparation of this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Masson SAS


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