The feeling of ownership of one’s own body

Long back, in an unforgettable talk, V S Ramachandran described (among other things) how to make people accept parts of a furniture as their own self. Now, via Coturnix, I learn that the experiments of this sort have been taken to the next level:

If I were you: Perceptual illusion of body swapping

V I Petkova and H H Ehrsson

The concept of an individual swapping his or her body with that of another person has captured the imagination of writers and artists for decades. Although this topic has not been the subject of investigation in science, it exemplifies the fundamental question of why we have an ongoing experience of being located inside our bodies. Here we report a perceptual illusion of body-swapping that addresses directly this issue. Manipulation of the visual perspective, in combination with the receipt of correlated multisensory information from the body was sufficient to trigger the illusion that another person’s body or an artificial body was one’s own. This effect was so strong that people could experience being in another person’s body when facing their own body and shaking hands with it. Our results are of fundamental importance because they identify the perceptual processes that produce the feeling of ownership of one’s body.

I see that two of Ramachandran’s papers are being referred to in this one; further, apparently, the illusions that Ramachandran and his colleagues created using mirrors (which is what probably he presented to us in his talk) is of a different nature than those performed here.

A very interesting piece, indeed; take a look!


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2 Responses to “The feeling of ownership of one’s own body”

  1. raj Says:

    Guru, I came across a news item that reverses this logic. Psychologists interviewing terrorists, especially those being trained in suicidal missions, have found that these terrorists are trained to dissociate themselves from their bodies. One of the trainees claimed, ” Prick a pin on any part of the body. I won’t feel any pain”. So, they are trained to view their bodies as external furniture!

  2. Guru Says:

    Dear Raj,

    I agree; and, if I remember correct, Ramachandran is also aware of the reverse effect; and, as a matter of fact, some of his subjects might even have reported similar things — though, I do not remember the exact details now.


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