Swedish neurobiologists have found that virtual body exchange changes the character and self-perception of people. Body illusions have a serious impact on memory and attitudes to the surrounding reality. This means that situations from fantastic movies and books, when the hero remains in a foreign form, are simply impossible.
Last October, researchers from the Karolinska Institute (Sweden) conducted an unusual experiment. Sixty-six volunteers were paired and asked to answer questions about each other – to assess the character and name the main features of the personality. Then they put everyone on the couches. Video cameras from above took a picture and broadcast it to a device attached to the test subjects’ heads so that everyone could see what his partner was looking at.
In addition, the feet and hands of the people in the same team were periodically touched so that their visual and tactile sensations coincided. As a result, within a few minutes, the participants of the experiment had a persistent illusion of body exchange. At least, when one person was threatened, another tried to evade the weapon.
This feeling did not last long. However, virtual penetration into the other changed the self-perception. “In someone else’s body, people described themselves as close to how they used to evaluate their partner.
In the Swedish neurobiologists’ experiment, the illusion of exchange arose due to the fact that the visual and tactile sensations of volunteers were synchronized.
Also, neurobiologists have noticed that all the subjects have had problems with episodic memory. Sometime after the experiment, they had difficulty remembering what kind of personality traits they were asked about. Moreover, the more different their partners were in character, the worse were the results of memory testing.
The researchers assume that this is the result of a conflict between the body and the general perception of oneself. Moving to another – even a virtual one – hindered the normal formation of memory about events related to the subject. Therefore, even if the exchange of bodies was possible, it would be extremely difficult to keep one’s identity inside another.
“In one experiment, people “exchanged” bodies and shook hands without losing their illusion. This shows how easy it is to change the concept of our brain about the physical self,” said the project manager.
In someone else’s skin
Spanish scientists engaged in such experiments do not see them as serious danger and suggest using them to change a person for the better – for example, to fight hidden racism. At least 90 of the volunteers who participated in their research, after “settling” into a person of different skin color, they got rid of racial prejudice.
Each volunteer was tested for hidden associations before entering another person’s body. In particular, this helps to understand whether a person relates the word “black” to the definitions of “bad,” “good,” “sports,” or “clumsy. After that, the subjects with the help of a virtual reality helmet were able to feel in the body of another person. Among the various avatars were black people. Sometime later, the test for hidden associations was repeated. It turned out that those who had been in the body of another race, indicators of hidden bias significantly decreased.
Psychologists on how the management of a child avatar affects adults.
Also, psychological tests showed that the owners of avatar children were inclined to perceive as “their” children’s things.
Similar results were obtained by British and Dutch researchers. However, they did not use virtual reality, but the so-called illusion of a rubber hand. Each of the subjects observed the movements of the human hand model. He or she was placed in such a way that the volunteer had the feeling that it was his or her own limb. If the skin color was different, the latent racism indicators were lower than before the experiment. If the color was the same, it did not happen.
The authors suggested that after illusory infiltration into the body of another brain retains the memory of this sensation. And a person can no longer think badly about people of another race.
Fall into childhood
As it turned out, someone else’s body also affects the perception of the surrounding world, especially when it comes to the big difference in age and height. This conclusion was reached by an international team of scientists.
They gave out virtual reality glasses to the volunteers and offered them to choose their avatars. Some preferred to transform themselves into four-year-old children, while others preferred to transform themselves into adult characters, though reduced to four-year-old children. All objects, even their own reflection in the mirror, the subjects saw with the eyes of the one they had moved into, and their movements were synchronized thanks to a special suit.