Universiteit Leiden

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Research programme

Action control

... which conceptualizes and investigates cognitive and affective processes with respect to their ultimate function: the control of voluntary action and self-regulation.

Bernhard Hommel

Human behaviour is intentional, driven by internal needs and goals, and adaptively tailored to envi­ronmental circumstances—facts that are hardly reflected in the classical view of behavior as the end product of a stimulus-triggered chain of increasingly elaborate information-processing stages. As an alternative, the research programme focuses on motivated cognition grounded in, and emerging from, sensorimotor experience. This programme aims at conceptualizing and investigating cognitive processes with respect to their ultimate function: the control of voluntary action. It thus focuses on how manual, verbal, and other actions are organized and controlled by perceptual and affective processes, working memory, attentional and intentional selection processes and mental sets, and how planning and performing actions works back on perception, emotion, cognition, and memory. In particular, the programme aims at integrating insights on perception, emotion, and action planning, working memory, and executive functions into a comprehensive theory of action control.

The research perspective considers different levels of analysis and abstraction, such as societal, contextual, and genetic factors that are shaping and constraining people’s ability to control their actions, functional analyses of the behavioral consequences, and detailed analyses of underlying neural and neurochemical mechanisms. Accordingly, the methods used in studying these issues include behavioral experiments both in healthy subjects and in special populations (e.g., drug users, patients, children, elderly), psychophysiological, psychopharmacological, and brain-imaging measurement tech­niques (EEG, MEG, fMRI), behavioral genetics, neurocomputational simulations, and studies in applied settings.  

Connection with other research

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