The Body Swap Illusion
December 4, 2008 4:18 PM   Subscribe

If I Were You: Perceptual Illusion of Body Swapping. Expanding on previous experiments, researchers discover how to induce a "body-swap" illusion, whereby subjects perceive the body of another as if it were their own.
posted by homunculus (22 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
This has interesting implications for wife-swapping.
posted by grounded at 4:29 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Are mushrooms involved?
posted by delmoi at 4:52 PM on December 4, 2008

Reminds me of the mirror box technique used to treat amputees with phantom pain. Basically, you use a mirror to look at your body so that it seems that you have two whole limbs; you then try to move both of your limbs in unison. Because the amputated limb that moves has a corresponding visual response (that is actually a mirrored reflection of your normal limb), apparently it (often) has a soothing and healing effect that will temporarily get rid of the tingling and burning sensation of phantom pain.
posted by suedehead at 5:17 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

How many subjects start masturbating immediately?
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:23 PM on December 4, 2008

(If it works across genders)
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:23 PM on December 4, 2008

If this is going to produce another spate of terrible '80s-style switch movies, then don't tamper in God's domain, damnit.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:26 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Pretty much lays the effectiveness of voodoo dolls to rest.
posted by tellurian at 6:57 PM on December 4, 2008

I am reminded of Gun, With Occasional Music

Of course this will be used for sex. So, the kinky signifiers of the future are going to be really weird. Like, instead of a girl pulling out a pair of handcuffs, she'll whip out a huge electrostim array and coo,

"Oh baby, I just wanna be you."
posted by The Whelk at 7:27 PM on December 4, 2008

Body image works well for us in normal circumstances, but it's a mental construct and so it makes sense that it can break or be hacked:

The phantom nose effect:
"In the [experiment], the subject sits in a chair blindfolded, with an accomplice sitting at his right side, or in front of him, facing the same direction. The experimenter then stands near the subject, and with his left hand takes hold of the subject's left index finger and uses it to repeatedly and randomly tap and stroke the nose of the accomplice, while at the same time, using his right hand, he taps and strokes the subject's nose in precisely the same manner, and in perfect synchrony. After a few seconds of this procedure, the subject develops the uncanny illusion that his nose has either been dislocated, or has been stretched out several feet forwards or off to the side, demonstrating the striking plasticity or malleability of our body image. The more random and unpredictable the tapping sequence the more striking the illusion. We suggest that the subject's brain regards it as highly improbable that the tapping sequence on his finger and the one on his nose are identical simply by chance and therefore 'assumes' that the nose has been displaced - applying a universal Bayesian logic that is common to all sensory systems. Interestingly, once the illusion is in place, if a drop of ice-cold water is now applied to the subject's nose, the cold is sometimes felt in the new location of the nose. The phantom nose illusion is a very striking one, and we were able to replicate it on twelve out of eighteen naive subjects." -from Ramachandran and Hirstein (1997)

I recommend checking out Phantoms in the Brain, which has more on body image function and disfunction, as well as on other insightful disorders.
posted by parudox at 7:40 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

This physiological response was found to be significantly greater when the mannequin was threatened with the knife in the synchronous condition than in the asynchronous condition, or when the mannequin was approached with a spoon in either condition.

But why a spoon, uncle?

Because it's dull. It'll hurt more, you twit.
posted by nosila at 8:14 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, this is cool!
posted by klangklangston at 8:35 PM on December 4, 2008


people, people - 13 comments in?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:21 PM on December 4, 2008

Just think of the video games they'll be able to make...
posted by birdsquared at 10:11 PM on December 4, 2008

I would like the body of a nineteen-year-old lesbian. How soon may this be arranged?
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:21 PM on December 4, 2008

Halloween Jack: As soon as you've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate, I'm sure.

Back to the scientific task at hand, I'm surprised chugging a bottle of Bombay Sapphire in 5 minutes wasn't brought up. If that's not an out-of-body experience, what is?
posted by electronslave at 12:30 AM on December 5, 2008

That's Prince, right? Prince wrote this article?
posted by uncleozzy at 5:44 AM on December 5, 2008

I was one of the test subjects in the hand squeeze part of the experiment. The illusion was pretty cool but not perfect. Getting the synchronization part down was difficult and holding hands with girls is a bit clammy and distracting. There were some definite "Eek! what is my hand doing!" moments though.

I remember Valeria hoping for "sexy results" when we talked about the experiment afterwards which was really cool since it was über nerdy and an unintentional DFA 1979 reference at the same time.
posted by uandt at 7:00 AM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Amazing. Thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 12:54 PM on December 5, 2008

Thanks, uandt and homunculus. I immediately thought about sexy results. I could imagine pron pushing this technology. gp.
posted by quanta and qualia at 2:25 PM on December 5, 2008

Rubber hand feels real for amputees
posted by homunculus at 2:19 PM on December 16, 2008

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