The Rubber Hand Experiment, The Sensational Body

Matthew Botvinick and Johnathan Cohen’s (1998) visual rubber hand illusion experiment consists of placing one of the subject’s hand out of their field of vision and placing a rubber hand in the position the hidden hand would naturally rest on the table in the view of the participant. Someone would then in sync stimulate both the hidden hand and the rubber hand, for example stroking the index finger. In doing this about 80% of subjects after 15 seconds of stimulation will begin to experience the rubber hand as if it is the subjects real hand. Even when the participant is visually aware that the rubber hand is fake, the brain adopts the rubber limb, by matching the visual with the tactile sensations coming from it. If the rubber hand is threatened the brain creates physiological protective responses as if it was the participants own hand being threatened.

This demonstrates that with minimal stimulation the mind can adopt a limb as if it were part of the body. The sensation of the body is extended to this inanimate object (the rubber hand). This experiment effectively demonstrates how the mind can be easily manipulated to feel their own sensations within an inanimate object that contains a manufactured representation on of a human limb. In our mind extending bodily sensations into object that merely represent the human form makes us have a heightened response to it as if it was our own body. When the rubber hand is threatened the mind responds in the same way which it would respond its own hand, this overactive response to an object as being an extension to oneself may allow us to further understand how we may feel our own bodily sensations within works of art that lend itself to bodily sensations. I want my degree show piece to have a bodily presence that allows its audience to feel their own sensations through it.

 

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