Publications by authors named "Henk Aarts"

132 Publications

The role of fragrance and self-esteem in perception of body odors and impressions of others.

PLoS One 2021 15;16(11):e0258773. Epub 2021 Nov 15.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Human sweat odor serves as social communication signal for a person's traits and emotional states. This study explored whether body odors can also communicate information about one's self-esteem, and the role of applied fragrance in this relationship. Female participants were asked to rate self-esteem and attractiveness of different male contestants of a dating show, while being exposed to male participant's body odors differing in self-esteem. High self-esteem sweat was rated more pleasant and less intense than low self-esteem sweat. However, there was no difference in perceived self-esteem and attractiveness of male contestants in videos, hence explicit differences in body odor did not transfer to judgments of related person characteristics. When the body odor was fragranced using a fragranced body spray, male contestants were rated as having higher self-esteem and being more attractive. The finding that body odors from male participants differing in self-esteem are rated differently and can be discriminated suggests self-esteem has distinct perceivable olfactory features, but the remaining findings imply that only fragrance affect the psychological impression someone makes. These findings are discussed in the context of the role of body odor and fragrance in human perception and social communication.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0258773PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8592444PMC
November 2021

Exploring Peoples' Perception of Autonomy and Reactance in Everyday AI Interactions.

Front Psychol 2021 29;12:713074. Epub 2021 Sep 29.

Department of Industrial Design, Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, Netherlands.

Applications using Artificial Intelligence (AI) have become commonplace and embedded in our daily lives. Much of our communication has transitioned from human-human interaction to human-technology or technology-mediated interaction. As technology is handed over control and streamlines choices and decision-making in different contexts, people are increasingly concerned about a potential threat to their autonomy. In this paper, we explore autonomy perception when interacting with AI-based applications in everyday contexts using a design fiction-based survey with 328 participants. We probed if providing users with explanations on "why" an application made certain choices or decisions influenced their perception of autonomy or reactance regarding the interaction with the applications. We also looked at changes in perception when users are aware of AI's presence in an application. In the social media context, we found that people perceived a greater reactance and lower sense of autonomy perhaps owing to the personal and identity-sensitive nature of the application context. Providing explanations on "why" in the navigation context, contributed to enhancing their autonomy perception, and reducing reactance since it influenced the users' subsequent actions based on the recommendation. We discuss our findings and the implications it has for the future development of everyday AI applications that respect human autonomy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.713074DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8511481PMC
September 2021

Facial emotion detection in Vestibular Schwannoma patients with and without facial paresis.

Soc Neurosci 2021 Jun 15;16(3):317-326. Epub 2021 Apr 15.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University & at the William James Center for Research, ISPA, Instituto Universitário, Lisbon, Portugal.

This study investigates whether there exist differences in facial emotion detection accuracy in patients suffering from Vestibular Schwannoma (VS) due to their facial paresis. Forty-four VS patients, half of them with, and half of them without a facial paresis, had to classify pictures of facial expressions as being emotional or non-emotional. The visual information of images was systematically manipulated by adding different levels of visual noise. The study had a mixed design with emotional expression (happy vs. angry) and visual noise level (10% to 80%) as repeated measures and facial paresis (present vs. absent) and degree of facial dysfunction as between subjects' factors. Emotion detection accuracy declined when visual information declined, an effect that was stronger for anger than for happy expressions. Overall, emotion detection accuracy for happy and angry faces did not differ between VS patients with or without a facial paresis, although exploratory analyses suggest that the ability to recognize emotions in angry facial expressions was slightly more impaired in patients with facial paresis. The findings are discussed in the context of the effects of facial paresis on emotion detection, and the role of facial mimicry, in particular, as an important mechanism for facial emotion processing and understanding.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17470919.2021.1909127DOI Listing
June 2021

Perceiving emotions in visual stimuli: social verbal context facilitates emotion detection of words but not of faces.

Exp Brain Res 2021 Feb 18;239(2):413-423. Epub 2020 Nov 18.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Building on the notion that processing of emotional stimuli is sensitive to context, in two experimental tasks we explored whether the detection of emotion in emotional words (task 1) and facial expressions (task 2) is facilitated by social verbal context. Three different levels of contextual supporting information were compared, namely (1) no information, (2) the verbal expression of an emotionally matched word pronounced with a neutral intonation, and (3) the verbal expression of an emotionally matched word pronounced with emotionally matched intonation. We found that increasing levels of supporting contextual information enhanced emotion detection for words, but not for facial expressions. We also measured activity of the corrugator and zygomaticus muscle to assess facial simulation, as processing of emotional stimuli can be facilitated by facial simulation. While facial simulation emerged for facial expressions, the level of contextual supporting information did not qualify this effect. All in all, our findings suggest that adding emotional-relevant voice elements positively influence emotion detection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00221-020-05975-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7936940PMC
February 2021

Quality of life, social function, emotion, and facial paresis in Dutch vestibular schwannoma patients.

Laryngoscope Investig Otolaryngol 2020 Jun 17;5(3):477-484. Epub 2020 Apr 17.

Department of Psychology Utrecht University, Martinus J. Langeveldgebouw Utrecht The Netherlands.

Objectives: The present study aimed to replicate the finding that vestibular schwannoma (VS) patients with facial paresis experience lower health related quality of life (QoL) than those without facial paresis in a Dutch sample, and to extend these findings by measuring VS patients' overall satisfaction with life, social function, and emotion.

Methods: Forty-seven VS patients, differing in degree of facial functioning, half of them with and half of them without a facial paresis, answered questionnaires about health related QoL (SF-36 and PANQOL), overall satisfaction with life, fear of being evaluated negatively by others, social avoidance and distress, and characteristics and symptoms of depression.

Results: We observed that VS patients with facial paresis experience lower health-related QoL as well negatively impacted social function and emotion compared to VS patients without facial paresis. VS patients with facial paresis experienced lower overall satisfaction with life, more characteristic symptoms of depression, and more fear of being evaluated negatively by others than VS patients without facial paresis.

Conclusion: These findings corroborate previous research showing an association between impaired facial functioning and lower QoL, but also extend them by showing differences on the quality of social function and emotion. Being aware of this difference between VS patients with and without facial paresis informs health practitioners regarding the specific support these patients might need. Moreover, it is also relevant to consider the influence of a facial paresis on patients' life when deciding between treatment options and in case of surgery the type of resection.

Level Of Evidence: 3.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/lio2.371DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7314489PMC
June 2020

Lateralization of facial emotion processing and facial paresis in Vestibular Schwannoma patients.

Brain Behav 2020 07 12;10(7):e01644. Epub 2020 May 12.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Objective: This study investigates whether there exist differences in lateralization of facial emotion processing in patients suffering from Vestibular Schwannoma (VS) based on the presence of a facial paresis and their degree of facial functioning as measured by the House Brackmann Grading scale (HBG).

Methods: Forty-four VS patients, half of them with a facial paresis and half of them without a facial paresis, rated how emotive they considered images of faces showing emotion in the left versus right visual field. Stimuli consisted of faces with a neutral half and an emotional (happy or angry) half. The study had a mixed design with emotional expression (happy vs. angry) and emotional half (left vs. right visual field) of the faces as repeated measures, and facial paresis (present vs. absent) and HBG as between subjects' factors. The visual field bias was the main dependent variable.

Results: In line with typical findings in the normal population, a left visual field bias showed in the current sample: patients judged emotional expressions shown in the left visual field as more emotive than those shown in the right visual field. No differences in visual field bias showed based on the presence of a facial paresis nor based on patients' HBG.

Conclusion: VS patients show a left visual field bias when processing facial emotion. No differences in lateralization showed based on the presence of a facial paresis or on patients' HBG. Based on this study, facial paresis thus does not affect the lateralization of facial emotion processing in patients with VS.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1644DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7375079PMC
July 2020

Ideomotor Action: Evidence for Automaticity in Learning, but Not Execution.

Front Psychol 2020 14;11:185. Epub 2020 Feb 14.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands.

Human habits are widely assumed to result from stimulus-response (S-R) associations that are formed if one frequently and consistently does the same thing in the same situation. According to Ideomotor Theory, a distinct but similar process could lead to response-outcome (R-O) associations if responses frequently and consistently produce the same outcomes. This process is assumed to occur spontaneously, and because these associations can operate in a bidirectional manner, merely perceiving or thinking of an outcome should automatically activate the associated action. In the current paper we test this automaticity feature of ideomotor learning. In four experiments, participants completed the same learning phase in which they could acquire associations, and were either explicitly informed about the contingency between actions and outcomes, or not. Automatic action selection and initiation were investigated using a free-choice task in Experiment 1 and forced-choice tasks in Experiment 2, 3a, and 3b. An ideomotor effect was only obtained in the free-choice, but not convincingly in the forced-choice tasks. Together, this suggests that action-outcome relations can be learned spontaneously, but that there may be limits to the automaticity of the ideomotor effect.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00185DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7033682PMC
February 2020

From sterile labs to rich VR: Immersive multisensory context critical for odors to induce motivated cleaning behavior.

Behav Res Methods 2020 08;52(4):1657-1670

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, PO Box 80140, 3508 TC, Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Extending traditional research methods for studying the effects of odor on behavior, this study applied virtual reality (VR) to create a real-world, immersive context that was compared with a traditional sterile, non-immersive lab setting. Using precise odor administration with olfactometry, participants were exposed to three odors (cleaning-related pleasant smell, cleaning-unrelated pleasant smell: vanillin, and odorless air). Our aim was to tease apart whether participants' motivation to clean was driven by cleaning associations and/or odor pleasantness, and how context would accentuate these effects. The results indeed showed that, in VR only, the cleaning-related smell elicited faster and more energetic cleaning behavior on a custom-designed cleaning task, and faster and more voluminous olfactory sampling compared with controls (vanillin, air). These effects were not driven by odor valence, given the general absence of significant differences between the pleasant control odor vanillin and odorless air. In sum, combining rigorous experimental control with high ecological validity, this research shows the context dependency of (congruent) odors affecting motivated behavior in an immersive context only.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13428-019-01341-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7406481PMC
August 2020

Lateralization of facial emotion processing and facial mimicry.

Laterality 2020 May 29;25(3):259-274. Epub 2019 Aug 29.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands.

The two halves of the brain are believed to play different roles in emotional processing. In studies involving chimeric faces, emotional expressions in the left visual field are more strongly perceived as emotional than those in the right visual field. Notably, the role of facial mimicry has not been studied in relation to hemispheric lateralization. In the current study, which used a novel stimulus set of chimeric faces, we proposed and found that emotional intensity judgments replicate the left visual field bias for facial expressions of emotions. While a general facial mimicry effect to the chimeric faces occurred for the corrugator muscle, these mimicry effects were not related to the visual field bias. The results suggest that encoding the emotionality of another person's facial expression might occur independent from the mere mimicry of the facial expression itself.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1357650X.2019.1657127DOI Listing
May 2020

Moving Forward: On the Limits of Motor-Based Forward Models.

Trends Cogn Sci 2019 09 29;23(9):743-753. Epub 2019 Jul 29.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Electronic address:

The human ability to anticipate the consequences that result from action is an essential building block for cognitive, emotional, and social functioning. A dominant view is that this faculty is based on motor predictions, in which a forward model uses a copy of the motor command to predict imminent sensory action-consequences. Although this account was originally conceived to explain the processing of action-outcomes that are tightly coupled to bodily movements, it has been increasingly extrapolated to effects beyond the body. Here, we critically evaluate this generalization and argue that, although there is ample evidence for the role of predictions in the processing of environment-related action-outcomes, there is hitherto little reason to assume that these predictions result from motor-based forward models.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2019.06.008DOI Listing
September 2019

The Role of Intentional Strength in Shaping the Sense of Agency.

Front Psychol 2019 21;10:1124. Epub 2019 May 21.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands.

Awareness of action is a pervasive personal experience that is crucial in understanding self-generated and other-generated actions as well as their effects. A large body of research suggests that action awareness, as measured by the magnitude of temporal binding between an action and its effect in an operant action task (i.e., intentional binding), is rooted in the human capacity to experience self-agency and establish action intentions. Whereas previous research mainly addressed the role of intentionality itself in these socially well-shared experiences, in the present study we focused specifically on one important aspect of it: the quality or strength of action intentions. We expected and established that stronger intentions increase intentional binding. Specifically, the magnitude of the binding effect, as assessed by the Libet clock task in which two actions were followed by the same neutral tone, was elevated for the action that was enacted with stronger intentions. We briefly discuss the implications of the observed role of intentional strength in temporal binding between action and effect, for promoting a better understanding and examination of how the concept of intentionality is associated with action awareness in general, and the experience of being the agent of one's own actions in particular.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01124DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6558416PMC
May 2019

Visualizing mental representations in schizophrenia patients: A reverse correlation approach.

Schizophr Res Cogn 2019 Sep 6;17:100138. Epub 2019 Apr 6.

University Medical Centre Utrecht Brain Centre, dept of Psychiatry, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Schizophrenia patients have difficulties recognizing emotional states from faces, in particular those with negative valence, with severe consequences for daily life. What do these patients see in their minds eye, when they think of a face expressing a particular emotion or trait? The content of such mental representations can shed light into the nature of their deficits, but are usually inaccessible. For the first time, we explored the applicability of reverse correlation, which has been successfully used to visualize mental representations in healthy populations, to visualize mental representations in schizophrenia patients. We investigated mental representations of trustworthy faces, a primary dimension of social face evaluation that is highly correlated with valence. Patients ( = 23) and healthy controls ( = 34) classified images of noise-distorted faces as 'trustworthy', 'untrustworthy' or 'neutral'. We visualized their mental representations of these concepts by averaging the noise patterns based on their classifications. These visualizations were then rated on trustworthiness by an independent sample of participants. Patients were able to perform the reverse correlation task, with response times and biases similar to those of healthy controls, and the obtained images vividly reflected the respective constructs of interest. However, there were no significant differences between the ratings of the visualizations of patients and controls. Conclusion: These novel findings provide a proof of principle that the reverse correlation technique can be applied to investigate mental representations in schizophrenia patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scog.2019.100138DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6454059PMC
September 2019

Quantifying the informational value of classification images.

Behav Res Methods 2019 10;51(5):2059-2073

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Reverse correlation is an influential psychophysical paradigm that uses a participant's responses to randomly varying images to build a classification image (CI), which is commonly interpreted as a visualization of the participant's mental representation. It is unclear, however, how to statistically quantify the amount of signal present in CIs, which limits the interpretability of these images. In this article, we propose a novel metric, infoVal, which assesses informational value relative to a resampled random distribution and can be interpreted like a z score. In the first part, we define the infoVal metric and show, through simulations, that it adheres to typical Type I error rates under various task conditions (internal validity). In the second part, we show that the metric correlates with markers of data quality in empirical reverse-correlation data, such as the subjective recognizability, objective discriminability, and test-retest reliability of the CIs (convergent validity). In the final part, we demonstrate how the infoVal metric can be used to compare the informational value of reverse-correlation datasets, by comparing data acquired online with data acquired in a controlled lab environment. We recommend a new standard of good practice in which researchers assess the infoVal scores of reverse-correlation data in order to ensure that they do not read signal in CIs where no signal is present. The infoVal metric is implemented in the open-source rcicr R package, to facilitate its adoption.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13428-019-01232-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6797653PMC
October 2019

Perception of action-outcomes is shaped by life-long and contextual expectations.

Sci Rep 2019 03 26;9(1):5225. Epub 2019 Mar 26.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

The way humans perceive the outcomes of their actions is strongly colored by their expectations. These expectations can develop over different timescales and are not always complementary. The present work examines how long-term (structural) expectations - developed over a lifetime - and short-term (contextual) expectations jointly affect perception. In two studies, including a pre-registered replication, participants initiated the movement of an ambiguously rotating sphere by operating a rotary switch. In the absence of any learning, participants predominantly perceived the sphere to rotate in the same direction as their rotary action. This bias toward structural expectations was abolished (but not reversed) when participants were exposed to incompatible action-effect contingencies (e.g., clockwise actions causing counterclockwise percepts) during a preceding learning phase. Exposure to compatible action-effect contingencies, however, did not add to the existing structural bias. Together, these findings reveal that perception of action-outcomes results from the combined influence of both long-term and immediate expectations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-41090-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6435663PMC
March 2019

Multisensory integration underlying body-ownership experiences in schizophrenia and offspring of patients: a study using the rubber hand illusion paradigm

J Psychiatry Neurosci 2019 05;44(3):177-184

From the Brain Centre Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands (Prikken, Baalbergen, Hillegers, Kahn, Van Haren); the Utrecht University, Department of Psychology, Utrecht, the Netherlands (Van der Weiden, Aarts); the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Sophia Children’s Hospital, Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (Hillegers); and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Department of Psychiatry, New York, NY (Kahn).

Background: Schizophrenia is a disorder of basic self-disturbance. Evidence suggests that people with schizophrenia may have aberrant experiences of body ownership: they may feel that they are not the subject of their own body experiences. However, little is known about the development of such disturbances.

Methods: Using a rubber hand illusion paradigm, we assessed body ownership in patients with schizophrenia (n = 54), healthy controls (n = 56), children/adolescents at increased familial risk of developing schizophrenia (n = 24) or mood disorders (n = 33), and children/adolescents without this risk (n = 18). In this paradigm, a rubber hand (visible) and a participant’s real hand (invisible) were stroked synchronously and asynchronously; we then measured subjective illusory experiences and proprioceptive drift.

Results: All groups showed the expected effect of the rubber hand illusion: stronger proprioceptive drift and increased subjective illusory experiences after synchronous versus asynchronous stroking. The effect of synchronicity on subjective experiences was significantly weaker in patients with schizophrenia than in healthy controls, and subjective ratings were positively correlated with delusions in patients. We found no significant differences between children/adolescents with and without increased familial risk.

Limitations: Large individual differences raised questions for future research.

Conclusion: We found subtle disturbances in body-ownership experiences in patients with schizophrenia, which were associated with delusions. We found no evidence for impairments in children/adolescents at increased familial risk of developing schizophrenia or a mood disorder. Longitudinal data might reveal whether impairments in body ownership are predictive of psychosis onset.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1503/jpn.180049DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6488483PMC
May 2019

Exploring the role of motor and non-motor predictive mechanisms in sensory attenuation: Perceptual and neurophysiological findings.

Neuropsychologia 2019 02 18;124:216-225. Epub 2018 Dec 18.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

Sounds that result from our own actions are perceptually and neurophysiologically attenuated compared to sounds with an external origin. This sensory attenuation phenomenon is commonly attributed to prediction processes implicated in motor control. However, accumulating evidence suggests that attenuation effects can also result from prediction processes beyond the motor domain. The aim of the present study was two-fold. First, we attempted to replicate the role of identity-specific motor predictions in sensory attenuation. Second, we set out to examine whether attenuation effects can be observed when tones cannot be predicted from preceding actions, but only from the non-motor cues accompanying them. Participants completed a two-alternative forced choice task on the loudness of tones whose pitch was congruent or incongruent with previously learned key-tone or cue-tone associations. No convincing evidence was observed for identity predictions on a perceptual level nor on a neurophysiological level. However, exploratory analyses revealed that attenuation was more pronounced for participants who first learned to rely on motor (instead of non-motor predictions). Together, these findings suggest that the role of motor identity predictions in sensory attenuation might have to be reconsidered.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2018.12.007DOI Listing
February 2019

An examination of the sequential trial effect on experiences of agency in the Simon task.

Conscious Cogn 2018 11 31;66:17-25. Epub 2018 Oct 31.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Electronic address:

Previous research shows that agency experiences are reduced when response selection is dysfluent. Expanding on this work, we report two experiments addressing the influence of Simon response conflict on agency. Participants responded to congruent and incongruent Simon task trials and indicated their experienced agency after each response. Results show that incongruent trials were related to reduced agency experiences, thus replicating earlier work on the response-selection agency-link. Furthermore, the data further showed an interesting sequence effect: The congruency effect on experienced agency mainly emerged when a trial was preceded by a congruent trial. There was however no congruency effect on experienced agency when a trial was preceded by an incongruent trial. These findings are briefly discussed in the context of research on response selection and experiences of agency.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2018.10.005DOI Listing
November 2018

The influence of action-effect anticipation on bistable perception: differences between onset rivalry and ambiguous motion.

Neurosci Conscious 2018 17;2018(1):niy004. Epub 2018 Apr 17.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 1, 3582 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Perception is strongly shaped by the actions we perform. According to the theory of event coding, and forward models of motor control, goal-directed action preparation activates representations of desired effects. These expectations about the precise stimulus identity of one's action-outcomes (i.e. identity predictions) are thought to selectively influence perceptual processing of action-contingent effects. However, the existing evidence for such identity-prediction effects is scarce and mixed. Here, we developed a new paradigm to capture such effects and examined whether action-outcome predictions can bias the perception of binocular onset rivalry (Experiments 1a and 1b) and bistable motion (Experiment 2). Participants performed learning tasks in which they were exposed to action-outcome associations. On test trials, actions were followed by bistable stimuli that could be perceived as being either congruent or incongruent with the aforementioned associations (i.e. rivalrous oriented gratings in Experiments 1a and 1b and spheres with ambiguous rotation directions in Experiment 2). Across three experiments, we show that, whilst exposure to action-effect associations can bias the apparent motion direction of ambiguous spheres, it fails to influence perceptual selection of grating orientations in binocular onset rivalry. This pattern of results extends previous work on ambiguous motion by demonstrating that action-induced modulations do not generalize to all types of bistable percepts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/nc/niy004DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007180PMC
April 2018

When conflict influences liking: The case of the Stroop task.

PLoS One 2018 11;13(7):e0199700. Epub 2018 Jul 11.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Research suggests that cognitive conflict is accompanied by a negative signal. Building on the demonstrated role of negative affect in attitude formation and change, the present research investigated whether the experience of cognitive conflict negatively influences subsequent evaluations of neutral stimuli. Relying on the emergence of conflict in the Stroop task, participants were presented with compatible (non-conflict) and incompatible (conflict) Stroop color words that were each followed by a neutral visual stimulus. In general, participants liked stimuli following incompatible Stroop words less than stimuli following compatible Stroop words. The results revealed similar compatibility effects in tasks in which participants actively responded to the Stroop words and in tasks in which they passively observed them. Furthermore, these effects emerged in offline and online measures of evaluation. Interestingly, the results also suggest that the compatibility effect on liking observed in the present research was to some degree driven by the positivity associated with the compatible Stroop words, and not just by the negativity associated with the incompatible Stroop words. We discuss the present findings in the context of how and when conflicting responses to events (such as in the Stroop task) can influence evaluations of stimuli associated with the conflicting events.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0199700PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6040704PMC
December 2018

The nonconscious cessation of affiliative motivation: A replication and extension study.

PLoS One 2018 28;13(6):e0198899. Epub 2018 Jun 28.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Previous research has documented that incidentally processed action-words can produce corresponding behavior and that affective-motivational processes modulate these effects. The present study aimed to (1) replicate earlier work showing that behavioral effects of exposure to social affiliation related action-words (e.g., socialize, party, going-out) cease when these action-words are co-activated with negative stimuli, (2) probe moderation effects of individual differences in the affiliation motive, and (3) examine whether action-word priming effects on behavior rely on specific-word associations rather than the activation of a broad concept. Results of an experimental study (N = 191) showed that exposure-effects of affiliation related words on behavior instrumental in attaining affiliation goals cease when these words were co-activated with negative affect, but this cessation effect was relatively weak and non-significant. Subsequent analyses revealed that the effect was moderated by the affiliation motive: The cessation effect mainly occurred for individuals with a strong affiliation motive. Further, we found no evidence that word priming effects do merely occur via specific-word associations.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0198899PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6023142PMC
December 2018

The implicit power motive predicts decisions in line with perceived instrumentality.

Motiv Emot 2018 28;42(3):309-320. Epub 2018 Mar 28.

1Social and Organizational Psychology, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 1, 3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Past research suggests that the implicit power motive (i.e., an unconsciously held motivational disposition to derive pleasure from having impact on others) predicts a preference to interact with individuals having submissive-looking faces. The present research extends this finding by testing whether the relation between the implicit power motive and approaching submissiveness depends on instrumentality. In two experiments, participants were assigned to a group that would ostensibly compete with another group. Within this intergroup context, they were asked to select persons as leaders or members for the in-group or the out-group. Potential leaders and members were displayed as submissive-looking or dominant-looking. Results showed that the implicit power motive predicted decisions favoring dominant-looking persons as in-group leaders, and submissive-looking persons as out-group leaders (Study 1) or in-group members (Study 2). These findings indicate that the tendency for people high in the implicit power motive to approach submissive-looking persons depends on the perceived instrumentality for gaining influence over others.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11031-018-9687-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5915518PMC
March 2018

All for one or some for all? Evaluating informative hypotheses using multiple N = 1 studies.

Behav Res Methods 2018 12;50(6):2276-2291

Department of Methodology and Statistics, Utrecht University, PO Box 80140, 3508, TC, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Analyses are mostly executed at the population level, whereas in many applications the interest is on the individual level instead of the population level. In this paper, multiple N = 1 experiments are considered, where participants perform multiple trials with a dichotomous outcome in various conditions. Expectations with respect to the performance of participants can be translated into so-called informative hypotheses. These hypotheses can be evaluated for each participant separately using Bayes factors. A Bayes factor expresses the relative evidence for two hypotheses based on the data of one individual. This paper proposes to "average" these individual Bayes factors in the gP-BF, the average relative evidence. The gP-BF can be used to determine whether one hypothesis is preferred over another for all individuals under investigation. This measure provides insight into whether the relative preference of a hypothesis from a pre-defined set is homogeneous over individuals. Two additional measures are proposed to support the interpretation of the gP-BF: the evidence rate (ER), the proportion of individual Bayes factors that support the same hypothesis as the gP-BF, and the stability rate (SR), the proportion of individual Bayes factors that express a stronger support than the gP-BF. These three statistics can be used to determine the relative support in the data for the informative hypotheses entertained. Software is available that can be used to execute the approach proposed in this paper and to determine the sensitivity of the outcomes with respect to the number of participants and within condition replications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13428-017-0992-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6267551PMC
December 2018

Uncovering effects of self-control and stimulus-driven action selection on the sense of agency.

Conscious Cogn 2017 10 22;55:245-253. Epub 2017 Sep 22.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Electronic address:

The sense of agency refers to feelings of causing one's own action and resulting effect. Previous research indicates that voluntary action selection is an important factor in shaping the sense of agency. Whereas the volitional nature of the sense of agency is well documented, the present study examined whether agency is modulated when action selection shifts from self-control to a more automatic stimulus-driven process. Seventy-two participants performed an auditory Simon task including congruent and incongruent trials to generate automatic stimulus-driven vs. more self-control driven action, respectively. Responses in the Simon task produced a tone and agency was assessed with the intentional binding task - an implicit measure of agency. Results showed a Simon effect and temporal binding effect. However, temporal binding was independent of congruency. These findings suggest that temporal binding, a window to the sense of agency, emerges for both automatic stimulus-driven actions and self-controlled actions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2017.09.005DOI Listing
October 2017

Mindfulness Reduces Reactivity to Food Cues: Underlying Mechanisms and Applications in Daily Life.

Curr Addict Rep 2017 28;4(2):151-157. Epub 2017 Apr 28.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 1, 3854CS Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Purpose Of Review: Mindfulness-based interventions are becoming increasingly popular as a means to facilitate healthy eating. We suggest that the decentering component of mindfulness, which is the metacognitive insight that all experiences are impermanent, plays an especially important role in such interventions. To facilitate the application of decentering, we address its psychological mechanism to reduce reactivity to food cues, proposing that it makes thoughts and simulations in response to food cues less compelling. We discuss supporting evidence, applications, and challenges for future research.

Recent Findings: Experimental and correlational studies consistently find that the adoption of a decentering perspective reduces subjective cravings, physiological reactivity such as salivation, and unhealthy eating.

Summary: We suggest that the decentering perspective can be adopted in any situation to reduce reactivity to food cues. Considering people's high exposure to food temptations in daily life, this makes it a powerful tool to empower people to eat healthily.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40429-017-0134-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5435775PMC
April 2017

Abnormal agency experiences in schizophrenia patients: Examining the role of psychotic symptoms and familial risk.

Psychiatry Res 2017 Apr 1;250:270-276. Epub 2016 Nov 1.

Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Experiencing self-agency over one's own action outcomes is essential for social functioning. Recent research revealed that patients with schizophrenia do not use implicitly available information about their action-outcomes (i.e., prime-based agency inference) to arrive at self-agency experiences. Here, we examined whether this is related to symptoms and/or familial risk to develop the disease. Fifty-four patients, 54 controls, and 19 unaffected (and unrelated) siblings performed an agency inference task, in which experienced agency was measured over action-outcomes that matched or mismatched outcome-primes that were presented before action performance. The Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) and Comprehensive Assessment of Symptoms and History (CASH) were administered to assess psychopathology. Impairments in prime-based inferences did not differ between patients with symptoms of over- and underattribution. However, patients with agency underattribution symptoms reported significantly lower overall self-agency experiences. Siblings displayed stronger prime-based agency inferences than patients, but weaker prime-based inferences than healthy controls. However, these differences were not statistically significant. Findings suggest that impairments in prime-based agency inferences may be a trait characteristic of schizophrenia. Moreover, this study may stimulate further research on the familial basis and the clinical relevance of impairments in implicit agency inferences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2016.10.077DOI Listing
April 2017

Consumption Simulations Induce Salivation to Food Cues.

PLoS One 2016 7;11(11):e0165449. Epub 2016 Nov 7.

Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Salivation to food cues is typically explained in terms of mere stimulus-response links. However, food cues seem to especially increase salivation when food is attractive, suggesting a more complex psychological process. Adopting a grounded cognition perspective, we suggest that perceiving a food triggers simulations of consuming it, especially when attractive. These simulations then induce salivation, which effectively prepares the body for eating the food. In two experiments, we systematically examined the role of simulations on salivation to food cues. As stimuli, both experiments used an attractive, a neutral, and a sour food, as well as a non-food control object. In Experiment 1, participants were instructed to simulate eating every object they would be exposed to. We then exposed them to each object separately. Salivation was assessed by having participants spit their saliva into a cup after one minute of exposure. In Experiment 2, we instructed half of participants to simulate eating each object, and half to merely look at them, while measuring salivation as in Experiment 1. Afterwards, participants rated their simulations and desire to eat for each object separately. As predicted, foods increased salivation compared to the non-food control object, especially when they were attractive or sour (Exp. 1 and 2). Importantly, attractive and sour foods especially increased salivation when instructed to simulate (Exp. 2). These findings suggest that consumption simulations play an important role in inducing salivary responses to food cues. We discuss directions for future research as well as the role of simulations for other appetitive processes.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0165449PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5098730PMC
September 2017

The implicit power motive predicts action selection.

Psychol Res 2017 May 23;81(3):560-570. Epub 2016 Mar 23.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 126, 3584 CS, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Previous research has indicated that implicit motives can reliably predict which behaviors people select or decide to perform. However, so far, the question of how these motives are able to predict this action selection process has received little attention. Based on ideomotor theory, we argue that implicit motives can predict action selection when an action has become associated with a motive-congruent (dis)incentive through repeated experiences with the action-outcome relationship. This idea was investigated by examining whether the implicit need for power (nPower) would come to predict action selection (i.e., choosing to press either of two buttons) when these actions had repeatedly resulted in motive-congruent (dis)incentives (i.e., submissive or dominant faces). Both Studies 1 and 2 indicated that participants became more likely to select the action predictive of the motive-congruent outcome as their history with the action-outcome relationship increased. Study 2 indicated that this effect stemmed from both an approach towards incentives and an avoidance of disincentives. These results indicate that implicit motives (particularly the power motive) can predict action selection as a result of learning which actions yield motive-congruent (dis)incentives. Our findings therefore offer a model of how implicit motives can come to predict which behaviors people select to perform.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00426-016-0768-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397432PMC
May 2017

Impaired frontal processing during agency inferences in schizophrenia.

Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging 2016 Feb 23;248:134-41. Epub 2015 Dec 23.

Department of Psychiatry of the Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Electronic address:

People generally experience themselves as the cause of outcomes following from their own actions. Such agency inferences occur fluently and are essential to social interaction. However, schizophrenia patients often experience difficulties in distinguishing their own actions from those of others. Building on recent research into the neural substrates underlying agency inferences in healthy individuals, the present study investigates how these inferences are represented on a neural level in patients with schizophrenia. Thirty-one schizophrenia patients and 31 healthy controls performed an agency inference task while functional magnetic resonance images were obtained. Participants were presented with a task wherein the relationship between their actions and the subsequent outcomes was ambiguous. They received instructions to cause specific outcomes to occur by pressing a key, but the task was designed to match or mismatch the color outcome with the participants' goal. Both groups experienced stronger agency when their goal matched (vs. mismatched) the outcome. However, region of interest analyses revealed that only controls showed the expected involvement of the medial prefrontal cortex and superior frontal gyrus, whereas in patients the agency experience was not related to brain activation. These findings are discussed in light of a hypofrontality model of schizophrenia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pscychresns.2015.12.006DOI Listing
February 2016

Individual differences in action co-representation: not personal distress or subclinical psychotic experiences but sex composition modulates joint action performance.

Exp Brain Res 2016 Feb 2;234(2):499-510. Epub 2015 Nov 2.

Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Center Utrecht, Huispostnummer A.01.126, PO Box 85500, 3508 GA, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Successful social interaction requires the ability to integrate as well as distinguish own and others' actions. Normally, the integration and distinction of self and other are a well-balanced process, occurring without much effort or conscious attention. However, not everyone is blessed with the ability to balance self-other distinction and integration, resulting in personal distress in reaction to other people's emotions or even a loss of self [e.g., in (subclinical) psychosis]. Previous research has demonstrated that the integration and distinction of others' actions cause interference with one's own action performance (commonly assessed with a social Simon task). The present study had two goals. First, as previous studies on the social Simon effect employed relatively small samples (N < 50 per test), we aimed for a sample size that allowed us to test the robustness of the action interference effect. Second, we tested to what extent action interference reflects individual differences in traits related to self-other distinction (i.e., personal distress in reaction to other people's emotions and subclinical psychotic symptoms). Based on a questionnaire study among a large sample (N = 745), we selected a subsample (N = 130) of participants scoring low, average, or high on subclinical psychotic symptoms, or on personal distress. The selected participants performed a social Simon task. Results showed a robust social Simon effect, regardless of individual differences in personal distress or subclinical psychotic symptoms. However, exploratory analyses revealed that the sex composition of interaction pairs modulated social Simon effects. Possible explanations for these findings are discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00221-015-4475-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4731433PMC
February 2016

Attentional control and inferences of agency: Working memory load differentially modulates goal-based and prime-based agency experiences.

Conscious Cogn 2015 Dec 24;38:38-49. Epub 2015 Oct 24.

Department of Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Previous research indicates that people can infer self-agency, the experience of causing outcomes as a result of one's own actions, in situations where information about action-outcomes is pre-activated through goal-setting or priming. We argue that goal-based agency inferences rely on attentional control that processes information about matches and mismatches between intended and actual outcomes. Prime-based inferences follow an automatic cognitive accessibility process that relies on matches between primed and actual information about outcomes. We tested an improved task for a better examination of goal-based vs. primed-based agency inferences, and examined the moderating effect of working memory load on both types of inferences. Findings of four studies showed that goal-based, but not prime-based agency inferences dwindled under working memory load. These findings suggest that goal-based (vs. primed-based) agency inferences indeed rely on attentional control, thus rendering goal-based agency inferences especially prone to conditions that modulate goal-directed control processes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2015.10.002DOI Listing
December 2015
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