Poll: Have *you* ever felt the Rubber Hand Illusion?

We’ve got a lot of cognitively-oriented folks out there, and much talk about the Rubber Hand illusion and how it can be fruitfully used as a research tool (for example, Chris at Mixing Memory has an excellent post about the RHI and the mirror neuron system). 

So I’ve wondered — have any of you experienced this illusion? Care to comment on the phenomenology?

Here are the response categories:

Never tried it          Tried it and it didn’t work well          Tried it and it worked!


3 responses to “Poll: Have *you* ever felt the Rubber Hand Illusion?

  1. You know, when I was in grad school, some other students and I tried to replicate it, but we couldn’t get the synchronous stroking down. So no, I haven’t experienced it, but I’ve talked to people who’ve done the experiment, and they’ve experienced it themselves. They report that it’s pretty surreal.

  2. Never did it.

  3. Hi Michael,

    Tried it and it worked!

    You posted an interesting question: What is it like to experience the rubber-hand illusion?

    This is an important question, as it requires us to think to about the nature of the illusion itself. In my opinion, the rubber-hand illusion is first of all the subjective (i.e., personal) experience of body-ownership toward the fake hand. In other words, the experiential quality of the illusion is, at least for me, as important (if not more important) as its “behavioral” outcomes, such as proprioceptive drift (i.e., a misperception of the location of the occluded hand toward the direction of the fake hand). Unfortunately, questions about the phenomenology of the illusion, such as yours, are scarcely raised. I can only speculate about whether this is due to a lack of interest in such questions, or due to a general bias toward asking people about their experiences. Indeed, most research on the rubber-hand illusion has used “objective” methods, such as brain imaging, or psychophysiological and behavioral measures, in their investigations. Although such methods avoid the potential charge of subjectivity (e.g., response bias), they do not tell us much about what it is like to experience the illusion.

    Anyway, there seem to be large interpersonal differences in the experiential quality of the illusion. I personally would not describe my experience of it as “owning the fake hand”, but, during the illusion, I just cannot make myself to believe anymore that the touch is originating from my occluded hand, as the visual input is just to strong. Other people do experience the illusion as owning the fake hand, and feel as if they can somehow move and use the fake hand much like their own hand. From my own research on the illusion, I feel confident enough to postulate that (a) these interpersonal differences in the experiential quality of the illusion actually reflect difference in susceptibility (i.e., individual variation in the strength in which people can experience the illusion), and that (b) asking about experiences can be used to objectively measure the illusion. As such, I am very interested in other people’s replies to your question.

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