Bristol Interaction Group

The Experience of Agency


The importance of control in human-computer interactions is well established. For example, the seventh of Shneiderman’s Rules of Interface Design states that designers should strive to create interfaces that “support an internal locus of control”. This is based on the observation that users “strongly desire the sense that they are in charge of the system and that the system responds to their actions”.

In recent years the sense of control – or “Experience of Agency” – has become the focus for a significant body of research in cognitive neuroscience. Within this literature the experience of agency is defined as a person’s innate sense of being in control of their actions and through this control of being responsible for, or having ownership of, the consequences of those actions. Researchers in this field have developed techniques through which the experience of agency can be empirically investigated. 

This is an ongoing project in which we are applying implicit metrics – derived from recent research in Cognitive Neuroscience – to explore peoples’ experience of agency when interacting with new technologies, such as on-body and intelligent interfaces.


Coyle, D., Moore, J., Kristensson, P.O., Fletcher, P.C., & Blackwell, A.F. (2012) I did that! Measuring Users’ Experience of Agency in their own Actions. ACM CHI 2012, pp 2025-2034. Best Paper Honorable Mention. (pdf) (DOI link)

Limerick, H., Coyle, D. & Moore, J.W. (2014). The Experience of Agency in Human-Computer Interactions: A Review. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8:643. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00643.