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What is it like to be invisible?

Source – Nature, “Illusory ownership of an invisible body reduces autonomic and subjective social anxiety responses”

There is an emerging prospect of invisibility cloaking an entire human body due to advances in material science in the near future. A group of researchers set up an experiment to determine what is it like to be invisible? The team developed a perceptual illusion of having an entire invisible body. The team set out to determine what multi-sensory rules govern the illusion.

STUDY

It is well known that the human brain can be manipulated to feel ownership of another body and unconsciously recognize it as “self” if it perceives the same tactile sensation it is viewing. An example of this is the often cited “rubber hand” phenomenon (see Related Media).  This new study was conducted led by Arvid Guterstam of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. It showed that it is possible to elicit the perceptual illusion of owning an invisible body (not just a hand), and that this illusion could be used to examine if the feelings of invisibility affects aspects of social and affective cognition.

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[column]The study put 125 volunteers into a virtual reality environment where they saw nothing when looking down at their actual bodies. A paintbrush was used to poke both the physical body and the virtual body, which for most participants elicited the feeling that their body was invisible. The illusion was maintained when researchers “poked” the virtual body with a knife which elicited a stressful bio-response from participants. Conversely, participants felt less stress due to their invisibility in other situations which were expected to be more stressful (such as standing in front of a crowd). [/column]
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Results demonstrate that healthy individuals can experience the illusion of owning an invisible full-body. This may offer potentially novel treatment strategies for social anxiety disorder as well as body perception and pain management, not to mention preparation for future full-body cloaking technology.”Our findings revitalize the classic question raised by Plato almost two millennia ago regarding how the human mind would handle ‘the power’ of invisibility from a social-moral perspective,” says Arvid Guterstam.

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Feature Photo: Wikimedia/Shutter Stock

 

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