Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


“Henrik's work speaks to the idea that there is no such thing as a soul or a self that's independent of the brain.”
January 3, 2012 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Out-of-body experience: Master of illusion: Out-of-body experiences are just part of Ehrsson's repertoire. He has convinced people that they have swapped bodies with another person, gained a third arm, shrunk to the size of a doll or grown to giant proportions. [ . . . ] But Ehrsson's unorthodox apparatus amount to more than cheap trickery. They are part of his quest to understand how people come to experience a sense of self, located within their own bodies. The feeling of body ownership is so ingrained that few people ever think about it — and those scientists and philosophers who do have assumed that it was unassailable. [ . . . ] Ehrsson's work also intrigues neuroscientists and philosophers because it turns a slippery, metaphysical construct — the self — into something that scientists can dissect.
posted by troll (23 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is going to be used to create so much werid porn.
posted by The Whelk at 2:56 PM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: so much werid [sic] porn.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:07 PM on January 3, 2012


This is going to be used to create so much werid porn.
posted by The Whelk at 2:56 PM on January 3 [3 favorites +] [!]


Almodovar's got something for you.
posted by basicchannel at 3:22 PM on January 3, 2012


Strange Days Dentistry: When you figure out you're not actually Megan Fox skinny dipping, at least you'll have clean teeth.™
posted by jimmythefish at 3:23 PM on January 3, 2012


I know this sort of thing, and mapping, are used for phantom limb pain. I'm wondering what will happen when someone tries to treat someone who wants their foot removed for personal reasons....
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:27 PM on January 3, 2012


The quote from "Metzinger", with no other context or explanation of who they're quoting, is kind of confusing to me. Am I overlooking a part of the article?

Maybe it's just an editing error. I kind of wonder, though if they cut out some more controversial assertions.

I'm fairly sure the article must be referring to Thomas Metzinger, whose hypotheses about the role and nature of the "self"* are based on experiments like this.

Metzinger's Being No One is probably the most impressive book I've ever completely and utterly failed to get through. I'm not entirely sure if my failure is just because the book is extremely difficult, or because I find the theory it's proposing, and supporting very convincingly, to be unwelcome and depressing in a way I that I'm not proud of.

The subjective conscious experience is a byproduct of our modeling others, and has little impact on our actual behavior?

I can see the evidence. It makes a lot of sense. But be honest, I DON'T want to believe. Don't like that in myself. It makes me feel like a 15th century peasant clapping their hands over their ears when someone brings up Copernicus

*my simplification, not his
posted by CHoldredge at 4:53 PM on January 3, 2012


This is related to a recent Scientific American article (and its related research article "Being of Barbie"). I learned about them from David Byrne's amazing blog. David's commentary about the implications of this work is really good reading.
posted by dylanjames at 5:14 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lately I have been thinking (in the context of a discussion of how brain research affects the concept of "free will", a term I despise, but that's what people call it): we take this kind of work as showing that some purported feature of experience (like our sense of identity, or our feeling of making choices) is illusory. But, does that make sense? Do we think that the idea that our car can drive is an illusion, once we learn more about how the car works inside, and about the kind of things that can go wrong with it? Of course not. But people seem to be attached to the idea that will, or memory, or the feeling of identity is either some indivisible and unitary motion that happens in the immaterial Soul, or it's nothing.
posted by thelonius at 5:15 PM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


How hard would it be to move to Sweden to work in that lab? So cool.
posted by sarae at 7:01 PM on January 3, 2012


Here's an interview with him I linked in 2010.

The strength of the illusion was proved when the volunteers exhibited stress reactions after a knife was held to the camera-wearer’s arm but not when it was held to their own. However, the volunteers could not fool themselves into identifying with a non-humanoid object, such as a chair or a large block.
posted by euphorb at 7:45 PM on January 3, 2012


Could I use these techniques to put Raul Julia's consciousness in a baboon?
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:48 PM on January 3, 2012


Of course self is illusory. This seems intuitively obvious and necessary to me. And far from being threatened by it, I find it liberating. We each possess within our minds the ability to construct and adapt the cores of our beings ON THE FLY. That's amazing. That's hopeful. That's nothing to be scared of. We are not stuck. We are change watching itself happen.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:55 PM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


To say that the self is illusory is paradoxical. Because for an illusion to exist, someone has to perceive it.
posted by storybored at 9:00 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


To say that the self is illusory is paradoxical. Because for an illusion to exist, someone has to perceive it.

This is the argument Buddhists use to show that identifying self with body is a fallacy. So by extension, this work only confirms a venerated tenant of Buddhism, and is not new under the sun.
posted by clarknova at 10:35 PM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Interesting article! Now I'd very much like to experience one of the illusions. Unfortunately the only DIY one (crossing your index and middle fingers and touching your nose) doesn't work on me.
posted by Harald74 at 11:46 PM on January 3, 2012


Neat tricks: implications a little overstated?
posted by Segundus at 4:58 AM on January 4, 2012


Now I'd very much like to experience one of the illusions.

You could try this, or rather, have someone try this on you. I've done it a few times and it's generally worked. Not quite out of body but it is similar.
posted by sarae at 6:51 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Among the other venerated tenets of Buddhism (Zen, anyway), learning that mind is also not self is usually mentioned in the same breath. Which leaves us back where we started from.

Except that it seems that the whole point of these practices is to show people that the self is the fallacy - there is only something that perceives this experience. Self is more like a convenient pointer to the location where the perception occurs, and not a thing in itself. Well, it becomes one by convention, and therein lies the problem.
posted by sneebler at 7:02 AM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Neat tricks: implications a little overstated?

Maybe not. Neurological research has shown that cognition is a direct function of the brain, so the mind is the self in any meaningful sense. If one can tinker and stimulate certain structures of the brain to reproduce phenomena like OBE, Occam's razor removes the explanatory utility of a supernatural self.
posted by troll at 3:20 PM on January 4, 2012


Er, I meant to say "the brain is the self," not "the mind is the self."

Stupid self.
posted by troll at 3:31 PM on January 4, 2012


Harald74: Unfortunately the only DIY one (crossing your index and middle fingers and touching your nose) doesn't work on me.

Try your other hand.
For me it only works if I do it with my right hand.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:42 PM on January 4, 2012


The first thing I think of here is posthuman science fiction scenarios, where we can either upload our consciousness to autonomous spacefaring machines or massively modify our bodies to achieve same, downshift our timesense a few hundred million times, and just go wandering the galaxy living off solar energy and ramscooped hydrogen.

I want to live for a million years, but it'd be nice if I weren't too emotionally tied to this mortal frame.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:27 AM on January 5, 2012


They haven't been able to have someone experience embodiment in a chair, but they have been able to get people to switch sexes.

I was wondering if you could use this illusion to teach someone to have more empathy.
posted by bleary at 9:27 AM on January 6, 2012


« Older "Although there is a great deal of psychological r...  |  There will be no big Federal b... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments