This article makes the case that our digital devices create illusions of agency. There are times when users feel as if they are in control when in fact they are merely responding to stimuli on the screen in predictable ways. After the introduction, the second section of the article offers examples of illusions of agency that do not involve human–computer interaction in order to show that such illusions are possible and not terribly uncommon. The third and fourth sections of the article cover relevant work from empirical psychology, including the cues that are known to generate the sense of agency. The fifth section of the article shows that our devices are designed to deliver precisely those cues. In the sixth section, the argument is completed with evidence that users frequently use their smartphones without the sort of intentional supervision involved in genuine agency. This sixth section includes the introduction of Digital Environmental Dependency Syndrome (DEDS) as a possible way of characterizing extended use of the smartphone without genuine agency. In the final section of the article, there is a discussion of questions raised by the main claim, including suggestions for reducing occurrences of illusions of agency through software design.
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The Illusion of Agency in Human–Computer Interaction.
Neuroethics, 15(1), 1–15.