Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 08 October 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00703

Bodily pleasure matters: velocity of touch modulates body ownership during the rubber hand illusion

  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, London, UK
  • 2Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, CEHP Research Department, University College London, London, UK

The sense of body ownership represents a fundamental aspect of our self-consciousness. Influential experimental paradigms, such as the rubber hand illusion (RHI), in which a seen rubber hand is experienced as part of one's body when one's own unseen hand receives congruent tactile stimulation, have extensively examined the role of exteroceptive, multisensory integration on body ownership. However, remarkably, despite the more general current interest in the nature and role of interoception in emotion and consciousness, no study has investigated how the illusion may be affected by interoceptive bodily signals, such as affective touch. Here, we recruited 52 healthy, adult participants and we investigated for the first time, whether applying slow velocity, light tactile stimuli, known to elicit interoceptive feelings of pleasantness, would influence the illusion more than faster, emotionally-neutral, tactile stimuli. We also examined whether seeing another person's hand vs. a rubber hand would reduce the illusion in slow vs. fast stroking conditions, as interoceptive signals are used to represent one's own body from within and it is unclear how they would be integrated with visual signals from another person's hand. We found that slow velocity touch was perceived as more pleasant and it produced higher levels of subjective embodiment during the RHI compared with fast touch. Moreover, this effect applied irrespective of whether the seen hand was a rubber or a confederate's hand. These findings provide support for the idea that affective touch, and more generally interoception, may have a unique contribution to the sense of body ownership, and by implication to our embodied psychological “self.”

Keywords: rubber hand illusion, pleasant touch, interoception, body ownership, embodiment

Citation: Crucianelli L, Metcalf NK, Fotopoulou A and Jenkinson PM (2013) Bodily pleasure matters: velocity of touch modulates body ownership during the rubber hand illusion. Front. Psychol. 4:703. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00703

Received: 19 August 2013; Accepted: 14 September 2013;
Published online: 08 October 2013.

Edited by:

Heather Berlin, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, USA

Reviewed by:

Matthew R. Longo, Birkbeck, University of London, UK
Francis McGlone, Liverpool John Moores University, UK

Copyright © 2013 Crucianelli, Metcalf, Fotopoulou and Jenkinson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Aikaterini (Katerina) Fotopoulou, Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, CEHP Research Department, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HB, UK e-mail: a.fotopoulou@ucl.ac.uk.

These authors have shared the senior authorship.

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