Temporal Over-Adaptation and the Sense of Agency in Rhythmic Joint Action


  • Flávia Lujza Csikyová University of Vienna
  • Thomas Wolf Central European University
  • Natalie Sebanz Central European University


Humans have a natural ability to maintain synchronisation with others in rhythmic activities. Phase correction (PC) [1] is one of the low-level mechanisms facilitating this. It prevents the accumulation of common errors by automatically adding or subtracting some time to the current interval based on the asynchrony after the previous interval. However, if any partner corrects for more than necessary (over-adapts) PC can also impair coordination. 

The Train Alone to Play Together App (TAPTAPP) [2] has been designed to help ensemble musicians train to cope with unstable coordination patterns. The participants co-produce melodies with virtual agents simulating various sensorimotor synchronisation situations. During the early testing of this tool in the past months we have identified that PC agents correcting for more than half of the phase difference were among the most annoying to coordinate with. The participants have been reporting an unusual sense of confusion and irritation. This study sets out to explore the experience of cooperation with such over-adaptive agents in greater detail.

The effects of the agent’s PC behavior on the sense of agency and emotions of the human individual will be investigated. The participants will engage in an empirical experiment in the tradition of joint tapping tasks [1] derived from the TAPTAPP setting, accompanied by phenomenological measures of the sense of agency [3]. The virtual partners will simulate either high or average human levels of the PC rate. The task formulation will emphasize or de-emphasize the cooperative nature of the activity.

Participants' performance will be measured. Their sense of agency, engagement, and difficulty self-reports in the form of Likert scale data will be collected after each trial, with more detailed open-ended questions following each block of six trials. A questionnaire on a general sense of agency administered before the experiment will serve as a baseline.

We hypothesize significant differences in perceived difficulty, emotional valence/engagement, and the sense of individual agency across the two PC conditions. The strengths of these effects might be mediated by whether the importance of attunement to the partner is emphasized in the task description.

The current joint action phenomenology research [3] reports rich links of sense of agency perturbations to the synchronisation settings. Most findings are not unanimous and there is little known about the effects of phase over-correction. This project could serve as a valuable gateway to the wider exploration of the effect of unstable coordination patterns on the sense of self, and a potential link towards the contribution of such mechanisms to certain psychopatologies.


[1] B. H. Repp and Y.-H. Su, "Sensorimotor synchronization: a review of recent research (2006-2012)", Psychon. Bull. Rev., vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 403–452, 2013, doi: 10.3758/s13423-012-0371-2.

[2] European Research Council, "Training Alone to Play Together App | ECR Project Information | HORIZON". European Commission, CORDIS EU Research Results, 2022. Accessed: Apr. 30, 2024. [Online]. Available: https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/101069291/reporting

[3] J. D. Loehr, "The sense of agency in joint action: An integrative review", Psychon. Bull. Rev., vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 1089–1117, 2022, doi: 10.3758/s13423-021-02051-3.

Author Biographies

  • Thomas Wolf, Central European University

    Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Cognitive Science, Social Mind Center, CEU

  • Natalie Sebanz, Central European University

    Professor at the Department of Cognitive Science, Social Mind Center, CEU