Emergence of Agency in Infants


  • Amy Argueta Florida Atlantic University
  • Aliza Sloan Florida Atlantic University
  • Nancy Aaron Jones Florida Atlantic University
  • Scott Kelso Florida Atlantic University


Sense of agency is the feeling of control over one’s actions and that those actions affect the environment. While agency has been studied in adults, the process of agency formation is unknown. We conducted a mobile conjugate reinforcement (MCR) experiment to explore agency formation in 16 healthy, 2-3 month old infants. In MCR, an infant is placed supine in a crib and their foot is tethered to a string. The mobile spins when the string is pulled. The larger/faster the infant movement, the faster the mobile spins. We first assess whether our novel motorized mobile replicates previous MCR results (Rovee & Rovee, 1969). Similar to past results, there was a significant increase in kicking rate when the infant was tethered to the mobile. This increase in kicking is a hypothesized signature of agency formation (Kelso & Fuchs, 2016). Our results validate the mobile and allow further analysis of agency formation.