The Rubber Hand Illusion: Top-down attention modulates embodiment


The Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI) creates distortions of body ownership through multimodal integration of somatosensory and visual inputs. This illusion largely rests on bottom-up (automatic multisensory and perceptual integration) mechanisms. However, the relative contribution from top-down factors, such as controlled processes involving attentional regulation, remains unclear. Following previous work that highlights the putative influence of higher-order cognition in the RHI, we aimed to further examine how modulations of working memory load and task instructions—two conditions engaging top-down cognitive processes—influence the experience of the RHI, as indexed by a number of psychometric dimensions. Relying on exploratory factor analysis for assessing this phenomenology within the RHI, our results confirm the influence of higher-order, top-down mental processes. Whereas task instruction strongly modulated embodiment of the rubber hand, cognitive load altered the affective dimension of the RHI. Our findings corroborate that top-down processes shape the phenomenology of the RHI and herald new ways to improve experimental control over the RHI.

Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.
Rémi Thériault
Rémi Thériault
PhD Student (Social Psychology)

My research interests include social/implicit cognition, altruism, and dreams.