par Caspar, Emilie ;Christensen, Julia;Cleeremans, Axel ;Haggard, P.
Référence Consciousness and the Mind's I: Loops and systems between perception and action (December, 1st: Brussels)
Publication Non publié, 2015-12-01
Poster de conférence
Résumé : Individuals often deny responsibility for the negative consequences of their actions on the grounds that they were “only obeying orders”. The “Nuremberg defence” is an extreme instance of this line of argument. It has often been dismissed as merely reflecting an attempt to deflect responsibility by appealing to coercion. Milgram’s classic laboratory studies reported widespread obedience to an instruction to harm, suggesting that social coercion may alter the mechanisms of voluntary agency and hence abolish the normal experience of being in control of one’s own actions. However, Milgram’s and other studies have relied on dissembling, and on explicit measures of agency, which are known to be biased by social norms. Here, we combined coercive instructions with an implicit measure of sense of agency based on the perceived compression of time intervals between voluntary actions and their outcomes (“intentional binding”), and electrophysiological recordings. In our experiment, an experimenter ordered a volunteer to make a keypress action that caused either a financial penalty or a demonstrably painful electric shock to their co-participant, thereby increasing their own financial gain. We show that coercion reduced intentional binding, increasing the perceived interval between action and outcome, relative to a situation where participants freely chose to inflict the same harms. Interestingly, coercion also reduced the neural processing of the consequences of one’s own action. Thus, people who obey orders can subjectively experience their actions as though they were passive witnesses of their own behaviour rather than voluntary agents. Our results highlight the complex relation between the brain mechanisms that generate the subjective experience of voluntary actions and social constructs such as individual responsibility.