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Embodiment and agency: experimental investigation of the relation between plurimodal body representation and action attribution


The project, which participates to the pluridisciplinary approach of Cognitive Science, will allow reformulating the traditional philosophical problem of self-consciousness by combining empirical and theoretical tools. We have to distinguish two distinct kinds of self-consciousness, the sense of ownership that results from the recognition of one' s own body and the sense of agency, which consists in the recognition of oneself as the cause of actions (Gallagher, 2000). Even if the sense of agency and the sense of ownership are most of the time intimately related, they rely on partly distinct underlying mechanisms. We may thus wonder about the actual relationship between them. The project is articulated into three steps. The first experiment consists in assessing that interposal matching is a sufficient condition of the sense of ownership by manipulating the perception of body size. We intend to brush the subject' s hand that is hidden and a fake hand lying in front of the subject. In the synchronised condition, we expect that the subject' s evaluation of the size of his own hand will be influenced by the seen size of the fake hand. The second experiment consists in evaluating the role of the sense of ownership for the sense of agency. We hypothesise that errors of body recognition will lead to errors of action recognition. Subjects will be exposed to the conditions of the first experiment for a prolonged period, and then required to execute hand movements, while the visual feedback they received about the movement is systematically manipulated. They will then be asked whether the movement shown on the screen is their own or not. The third experiment will evaluate the effect of action attribution on plurimodal integration, by measuring EEG in the visual and somatosensory cortex. We expect that there will be more visual-somatosensory coherence when they see that the static fake hand is pulsed with light in synchrony with a vibration of the real hand if subjects have#

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