Perceived control, or sense of agency, is a concept relating to causality attribution and perceived responsibility, and as such represents a major driving force for our action decisions and general motivation to act. Accordingly, it is part of many models relating to applied behaviour, ranging from environmental psychology over organizational psychology to psychopathology. However, while these fields acknowledge the impact of perceived control, they usually do not make use of the broad, basic understanding of sense of agency formation that we have gained through years of rigorous, basic research on its cognitive foundations. This project thus aims to widen our scope and increase the explanatory capacity of our models by manipulating and incorporating situational, individual, and social variables, and then testing our improved understanding in real-world scenarios, in the laboratory as well as in the field.

Exemplary Publications

Schwarz, K. A., Tonn, S., Büttner, J., Kunde, W., & Pfister, R. (2023). Sense of agency in social hierarchies. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 152(10), 2957-2976.

Reis, M., Pfister, R., & Schwarz, K. A. (2023). The value of control. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, e2325.

Schwarz, K. A., Klaffehn, A. L., Hauke-Forman, N., Muth, F. V., & Pfister, R. (2022). Never run a changing system: Action-effect contingency shapes prospective agency. Cognition, 229, 105250.


Weller, L., Schwarz, K. A., Kunde, W., & Pfister, R. (2020). Something from nothing: Agency for deliberate nonactions. Cognition, 196(104136), 1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2019.104136.


Research grant “Retrospective and prospective agency in single- and multi-agent scenarios”, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Geman Research Foundation; SCHW 1955/1-2; project number 406027551), funding amount: 378.083€. (Katharina Schwarz)

Research grant „Agency from a biopsychosocial perspective”, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation; SCHW 1955/1-1), funding amount: 325.107€. (Katharina Schwarz)