Social Agency as a Continuum

Crystal Silver* (Corresponding Author), Benjamin Tatler, Ramakrishna Chakravarthi, Bert Timmermans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
131 Downloads (Pure)


Sense of Agency, the phenomenology associated with causing one’s own actions and corresponding effects, is a cornerstone of human experience. Social Agency can be defined as the Sense of Agency experienced in any situation in which the effects of our actions are related to a conspecific. This can be implemented as the other’s reactions being caused by our action, joint action modulating our Sense of Agency, or the other’s mere social presence influencing our Sense of Agency. It is currently an open question how such Social Agency can be conceptualized and how it relates to its nonsocial variant. This is because, compared with nonsocial Sense of Agency, the concept of Social Agency has remained oversimplified and underresearched, with disparate empirical paradigms yielding divergent results. Reviewing the empirical evidence and the commonalities and differences between different instantiations of Social Agency, we propose that Social Agency can be conceptualized as a continuum, in which the degree of cooperation is the key dimension that determines our Sense of Agency, and how it relates to nonsocial Sense of Agency. Taking this perspective, we review how the different factors that typically influence Sense of Agency affect Social Agency, and in the process highlight outstanding empirical questions within the field. Finally, concepts from wider research areas are discussed in relation to the ecological validity of Social Agency paradigms, and we provide recommendations for future methodology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-453
Number of pages20
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Early online date7 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the UKRI Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) grant number BB/M010996/1 to Crystal Silver (“Mechanisms of Social Agency”), and by a Carnegie Trust Research Incentive Grant to Bert Timmermans and Ramakrishna Chakravarthi ("Experiencing myself through you: Self-agency in social interaction" - RIG008270)


  • Sense of agency
  • social agency
  • joint action
  • social interaction
  • Cooperation


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