Subliminal action priming modulates the perceived intensity of sensory action consequences

Max-Philipp Stenner, Markus Bauer, Nura Sidarus, Hans-Jochen Heinze, Patrick Haggard, Raymond J. Dolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sense of control over the consequences of one's actions depends on predictions about these consequences. According to an influential computational model, consistency between predicted and observed action consequences attenuates perceived stimulus intensity, which might provide a marker of agentic control. An important assumption of this model is that these predictions are generated within the motor system. However, previous studies of sensory attenuation have typically confounded motor-specific perceptual modulation with perceptual effects of stimulus predictability that are not specific to motor action. As a result, these studies cannot unambiguously attribute sensory attenuation to a motor locus. We present a psychophysical experiment on auditory attenuation that avoids this pitfall. Subliminal masked priming of motor actions with compatible prime-target pairs has previously been shown to modulate both reaction times and the explicit feeling of control over action consequences. Here, we demonstrate reduced perceived loudness of tones caused by compatibly primed actions. Importantly, this modulation results from a manipulation of motor processing and is not confounded by stimulus predictability. We discuss our results with respect to theoretical models of the mechanisms underlying sensory attenuation and subliminal motor priming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-235
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Early online date10 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • Motor predictions
  • Negative compatibility effect
  • Sense of agency
  • Sensory attenuation
  • Subliminal motor priming

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