We normally entertain a fairly continuous and stable sense of personal identity, as we acknowledge that we are the same person, independently of what happens to us. The question of how our sense of self is maintained or changed across time is a key topic in psychology. Our self must possess sufficient plasticity, that is, adaptive processes of re-organization, to ensure assimilation of changes and a sense of continuity over time. To study the plasticity of the self, we will investigate how the experience of a changing body updates or alters our sense of self, in two parallel projects.
First, we will study what is currently considered to be the most radical change in one’s body, the case of face-transplantation. In face-transplantation, the acquisition of a new face is a medical fact, while the experience of a new identity is an unexplored psychological outcome. We will investigate the plasticity and continuity of the self caused by face-transplantation by testing self-identification in individuals before and after the operation, using experimental psychology and functional neuroimgaing methods. Second, we ask how our own body-image affects the way we perceive other people. We will address this second question by investigating how changes in body-representation, caused by experimental manipulations of bodily illusions, can consequently affect social cognition processes, using experimental and social psychology methods.The question of the plasticity of the self is timely, because the modern self, due to societal, technological and medical advances, seems to be exposed to new, often radical, possibilities of change. The proposed project aims at understanding the basic mechanisms behind the plasticity of the self, by integrating research methods from experimental and social psychology, cognitive neurosciences, and medicine in wide-ranging and innovative ways.”
Fields of science
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