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PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e20195. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020195. Epub 2011 May 25.

Being Barbie: the size of one's own body determines the perceived size of the world.

Author information

1
Brain, Body and Self Laboratory, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. bvdhoort@gmail.com

Abstract

A classical question in philosophy and psychology is if the sense of one's body influences how one visually perceives the world. Several theoreticians have suggested that our own body serves as a fundamental reference in visual perception of sizes and distances, although compelling experimental evidence for this hypothesis is lacking. In contrast, modern textbooks typically explain the perception of object size and distance by the combination of information from different visual cues. Here, we describe full body illusions in which subjects experience the ownership of a doll's body (80 cm or 30 cm) and a giant's body (400 cm) and use these as tools to demonstrate that the size of one's sensed own body directly influences the perception of object size and distance. These effects were quantified in ten separate experiments with complementary verbal, questionnaire, manual, walking, and physiological measures. When participants experienced the tiny body as their own, they perceived objects to be larger and farther away, and when they experienced the large-body illusion, they perceived objects to be smaller and nearer. Importantly, despite identical retinal input, this "body size effect" was greater when the participants experienced a sense of ownership of the artificial bodies compared to a control condition in which ownership was disrupted. These findings are fundamentally important as they suggest a causal relationship between the representations of body space and external space. Thus, our own body size affects how we perceive the world.

PMID:
21633503
PMCID:
PMC3102093
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0020195
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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