Visual processing and the bodily self.
Whiteley L., Spence C., Haggard P.
The 'body schema' has traditionally been defined as a passively updated, proprioceptive representation of the body. However, recent work has suggested that body representations are more complex and flexible than previously thought. They may integrate current perceptual information from all sensory modalities, and can be extended to incorporate indirect representations of the body and functional portions of tools. In the present study, we investigate the source of a facilitatory effect of viewing the body on speeded visual discrimination reaction times. Participants responded to identical visual stimuli that varied only in their context: being presented on the participant's own body, on the experimenter's body, or in a neutral context. The stimuli were filmed and viewed in real-time on a projector screen. Careful controls for attention, biological saliency, and attribution confirmed that the facilitatory effect depends critically on participants attributing the context to a real body. An intermediate effect was observed when the stimuli were presented on another person's body, suggesting that the effect of viewing one's own body might represent a conjunction of an interpersonal body effect and an egocentric effect.