Motivation from Agency and Reward in Typical Development and Autism: Narrative Review of Behavioral and Neural Evidence

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleContributedpeer-review


  • Irene Valori - , University of Padua (Author)
  • Laura Carnevali - (Author)
  • Giulia Mantovani - (Author)
  • Teresa Farroni - (Author)


Our ability to perform voluntary actions and make choices is shaped by the motivation from having control over the resulting effects (agency) and positive outcomes (reward). We offer an overview of distinct and common behavioral and neural signatures of agency and reward. We discuss their typical and atypical developmental trajectories, focusing on autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which is characterized by neurodiverse processes underlying action selection. We propose that reduced sensitivity to agency and reward in ASD may be related to atypical multisensory processes and motor planning, with potential for understanding restricted and repetitive behaviors. We emphasize the limitations of the existing literature, and prospects for future research. Understanding the neurocognitive processes that shape the way people with ASD select actions and perceive outcomes is essential to support not only learning, but also volition and self-determination.


Original languageEnglish
Article number1411
JournalBrain sciences
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes

External IDs

Scopus 85140431983
WOS 000872364500001
PubMed 36291344
Mendeley b39685cb-8d3c-39a8-bf5f-86ffed3f599c
unpaywall 10.3390/brainsci12101411


ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • ASD, agency, autism, motor planning, reward