Return of the body snatchers!

When it comes to virtual reality, how real is too real? Scientists have shown that using a pair of goggles and a camera, they can make people feel like a mannequin across the room is ACTUALLY their body. The effect is so real that when the mannequin is stabbed with a knife, the people react like it is actually them. Want to know more, or see a video of the experiments taking place? Read on!

I want more candy!
The organic stuff, please!
My brain hurts!

How do they make people believe that the mannequin is their body?
I think the best way to understand the setup is to check out the National Geographic video that shows you how they do the whole thing. But in short, they make the subject wear goggles hooked up to a camera that is placed at the mannequin’s eye level, looking down at the body of the mannequin. Then they ask the subject to look down at their own body (but they see the mannquin’s body instead). By poking the mannequin and the person in the same place at the same time, it makes the person begin to feel as if the mannequin is their body.

And this really works?
It seems to! When watching the mannequin be stabbed with a knife, the subjects recoil and their pulse increases, as if it was their own body that was being stabbed.

That’s kinda creepy, huh?
Well, yeah. On a slightly less creepy note, they were also able to make people believe that they were shaking hands with themselves, by putting the camera on one of the researcher’s heads, pointed at the subject and shaking their hand. This worked even if the researcher was a different gender than the subject – they actually believed they were the other person.

So why is this research important?
Well, for starters, it begins to address the question of how we identify ourselves. I know, trippy, right? But if you think about it, how do we know that our body actually is ours? Apparently, our mind can be tricked fairly easily into thinking that another body belongs to us, and the scientists want to know what kind of brain pathways go into this process.

There are also a number of other applications for this, including the obvious one – the video game industry. But in the future, it could also be used for various types of therapies.

Scientists can use cameras and virtual reality goggles to make people believe that a mannequin, or even another person, is actually their OWN body!

Read the original article – Published in the open access journal PLoS One
Watch the video – as reported by National Geographic
Read a blog post – at the The Great Beyond (a Nature Network blog)
Read a summary – at e!Science News

Photo provided by slimmer_jimmer


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