Research Topic

Anticipation and the control of voluntary action

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A major hallmark in the adaptive control of voluntary action is the ability to anticipate short and long term future events. Anticipation in its various forms is an important prerequisite for (higher order) cognitive abilities such as planning, reasoning and the pursuit of both immediate goals and long-term ...

A major hallmark in the adaptive control of voluntary action is the ability to anticipate short and long term future events. Anticipation in its various forms is an important prerequisite for (higher order) cognitive abilities such as planning, reasoning and the pursuit of both immediate goals and long-term goals that may even stand in opposition to immediate desires and needs (e.g., to invest in pension funds). Therefore, it is not surprising that diverse and rather independent research lines have evolved, all somehow targeting various anticipatory capacities that are involved in the control of voluntary action and thus, contribute to the uniqueness of human goal-directed behavior.
For example, prediction of the incentive value of action outcomes drives goal-directed instrumental behavior (e.g., Dickinson & Balleine, 2000; Rushworth & Behrens, 2008). Similarly, the Ideo-Motor Principle assumes that actions are selected and activated by the mere anticipation of the sensory experience they produce (e.g., James, 1890; Prinz, 1990). Furthermore, the degree of match between intended, anticipated and actual action effects has been proposed to be a major determinant of motor programming and online action corrections (Jeannerod, 1981), motor learning (e.g., Wolpert, Diedrichsen, & Flanagan, 2011), and the subjective sense of causing and controlling an action and its effects (Sense of Agency; e.g., Abell, Happé, & Frith, 2000).
The role of anticipation in the control of voluntary action, however, goes far beyond the anticipation of immediate action effects and desired goals. For instance, pre-cues and alerting signals are used for advance preparation of what to do (e.g., Meiran, 1996), when to act or expect an event onset (e.g., Callejas, Lupianez, & Tudela, 2004; Los & van der Heuvel, 2001; Nobre & Coull, 2010) and to anticipate conflict (e.g., Correa, Rao, & Nobre, 2009).
Voluntary action is influenced by the anticipation and prediction of mental effort in task processing (e.g., Song & Schwarz, 2008). In addition, the anticipation of long-term future social consequences (e.g., expected aloneness) has been shown to affect cognitive mechanisms involved in logic and reasoning (e.g., Baumeister, Twenge, & Nuss, 2002). Last but not least, learning of statistical contingencies (e.g., conflict frequency) leads to the anticipation and prediction of context-specific executive control requirements (e.g., Crump, Gong, & Milliken, 2006, Dreisbach & Haider, 2006).
The aim of the present Research Topic is to provide a platform that offers the possibility of cross-fertilization and enhanced visibility among to date rather segregated research lines. We encourage contributions addressing the link between anticipation (in the broader sense of expectation and prediction) and the control of voluntary action. We especially welcome research that addresses the functions of anticipation and the representations and mechanisms by which it exerts its influence (e.g., when choosing between action alternatives or determining how and when to prepare for an action), and research that addresses the behavioral and experiential consequences of (in-) correct anticipation or the costs of anticipation. In addition to behavioral, neuroscientific, developmental and clinical empirical studies we also particularly encourage theoretical contributions in form of review papers, mathematical models, and opinions.


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