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The effect of military training on the sense of agency and outcome processing

Publication year 2020
Published in Nature Communications
Authors E.A. Caspar, Salvatore Lo Bue, Pedro A Magalhães De Saldanha da Gama, Patrick Haggard, Axel Cleeremans,
The order of authors may deviate from the original publication due to temporary technical issues.

Armed forces often rely on strict hierarchical organization, where people are required to follow orders. In two cross-sectional studies, we investigate whether or not working in a military context influences the sense of agency and outcome processing, and how different durations (junior cadets vs senior cadets) and types (cadets vs privates) of military experience may modulate these effects. Participants could administer painful electrical shocks to a ‘victim’ in exchange for money, either by their own free choice, or following orders of the experimenter. Results indicate that working in a strictly hierarchical structure may have a generalized negative impact on one’s own sense of agency and outcome processing by reducing it, even when participants could freely decide their action. However, trained officers showed an enhanced sense of agency and outcome processing. This study offers insights on the potential for training the sense of agency and outcome processing.

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