Science Says Pull Your Finger Watch It Grow, Sort Of

If nothing else this experiment proves there are some really creative scientists out there.


Researchers from the University College London and the University of Warwick created an experiment to test whether a person’s perception of their own body can be manipulated by sounds completely unrelated to bodily movement.  


To conduct the experiment, participants were asked to place one hand behind a black cloak, rendering the hand invisible to its owner.  After the disappearing hand trick, participants were asked to listen to rising, falling, and steady tones, all while pulling on the index finger attached to the hand they couldn’t see.  Upon hearing each tone, giving their fingers a quick pull, and still unable to see said extremity, participants were asked to estimate the length of their respective digits.


In what they’re calling an “auditory Pinocchio effect,” scientists found participants estimated their finger length to be much greater when listening to rising tones.  In a press statement Dr. Ophelia Deroy, study co-author, said, 


“Previous research has found that our representations of our own bodies are flexible and can be modified by visual or tactile cues, but these are most often realistic - finding the effect with an arbitrary association with sounds shows how ready we are to refer available information to ourselves.”


The team says practical applications of their research could include creating auditory treatments for people with chronic pain and for people who have a difficulties judging where their body parts are in space.


Their study was published in Nature: Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/s41598-017-05870-4

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