Seeing the body distorts tactile size perception

Matthew R. Longo, Renata Sadibolova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vision of the body modulates somatosensation, even when entirely non-informative about stimulation. For example, seeing the body increases tactile spatial acuity, but reduces acute pain. While previous results demonstrate that vision of the body modulates somatosensory sensitivity, it is unknown whether vision also affects metric properties of touch, and if so how. This study investigated how non-informative vision of the body modulates tactile size perception. We used the mirror box illusion to induce the illusion that participants were directly seeing their stimulated left hand, though they actually saw their reflected right hand. We manipulated whether participants: (a) had the illusion of directly seeing their stimulated left hand, (b) had the illusion of seeing a non-body object at the same location, or (c) looked directly at their non-stimulated right-hand. Participants made verbal estimates of the perceived distance between two tactile stimuli presented simultaneously to the dorsum of the left hand, either 20, 30, or 40 mm apart. Vision of the body significantly reduced the perceived size of touch, compared to vision of the object or of the contralateral hand. In contrast, no apparent changes of perceived hand size were found. These results show that seeing the body distorts tactile size perception.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2013

Cite this