5 December 2008


Our experiments reveal that healthy volunteers can indeed experience other people's bodies, as well as artificial bodies, as being their own. This effect is so robust that, while experiencing being in another person's body, a participant can face his or her biological body and shake hands with it without breaking the illusion. The existence of this illusion (and the identification of the factors triggering it) represents a major advance because it informs us about the processes that make us feel that we own our body in its entirety.
The findings in If I Were You: Perceptual Illusion of Body Swapping by Valeria I. Petkova, H. Henrik Ehrsson are remarkable and, not surprisingly, have been widely reported.

Consider them, perhaps, in relation to a more general phenomena: on the down side, a human capacity to mistake our place in life as a whole; on the upside, a capacity for sympathy.

P.S. Only an object that looks like a human body can be 'owned', write Petkova and Ehrsson, but their control was a rectangular object, a green box the same size as a mannequin. What if they used the forms of other animals?

P.S. 9 Dec. Related - Primal, Acute and Easily Duped: Our Sense of Touch

Image: Vishvarupa

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