Examining the sense of agency in human-computer interaction

Martinez P Cornelio
in Thesis / Dissertation


Humans are agents, we feel that we control the course of events on our everyday life. This refers to the Sense of Agency (SoA). This experience is not only crucial in our daily life, but also in our interaction with technology. When we manipulate a user interface (e.g., computer, smartphone, etc.), we expect that the system responds to our input commands with feedback, as we desire to feel that we are in charge of the interaction. If this interplay elicits a SoA, then the user will perceive an instinctive feeling of "I am controlling this". Although research in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) pursuits the design of intuitive and responsive systems, most of the current studies have been focussed mainly on interaction techniques (e.g., software-hardware) and User Experience (UX) (e.g., comfort, usability, etc.), and very little has been investigated in terms of the SoA i.e., the conscious experience of being in control regarding the interaction. In this thesis, we present an experimental exploration of the role of the SoA in interaction paradigms typical of HCI. After two chapters of introduction and related work, we describe a series of studies that explore agency implication in interaction with systems through human senses such as vision, audio, touch and smell. Chapter 3 explores the SoA in mid-air haptic interaction through touchless actions. Then, Chapter 4 examines agency modulation through smell and its application for olfactory interfaces. Chapter 5 describes two novel timing techniques based on auditory and haptic cues that provide alternative timing methods to the traditional Libet clock. Finally, we conclude with a discussion chapter that highlights the importance of our SoA during interactions with technology as well as the implications of the results found, in the design of user interfaces.