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Liesner, Marvin; Hinz, Nina-Alisa and Kunde, Wilfried (6. July 2021): How Action Shapes Body Ownership Momentarily and Throughout the Lifespan. In: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Vol. 15, 697810: pp. 1-13 [PDF, 1MB]


Objects which a human agent controls by efferent activities (such as real or virtual tools) can be perceived by the agent as belonging to his or her body. This suggests that what an agent counts as “body” is plastic, depending on what she or he controls. Yet there are possible limitations for such momentary plasticity. One of these limitations is that sensations stemming from the body (e.g., proprioception) and sensations stemming from objects outside the body (e.g., vision) are not integrated if they do not sufficiently “match”. What “matches” and what does not is conceivably determined by long–term experience with the perceptual changes that body movements typically produce. Children have accumulated less sensorimotor experience than adults have. Consequently, they express higher flexibility to integrate body-internal and body-external signals, independent of their “match” as suggested by rubber hand illusion studies. However, children’s motor performance in tool use is more affected by mismatching body-internal and body-external action effects than that of adults, possibly because of less developed means to overcome such mismatches. We review research on perception-action interactions, multisensory integration, and developmental psychology to build bridges between these research fields. By doing so, we account for the flexibility of the sense of body ownership for actively controlled events and its development through ontogeny. This gives us the opportunity to validate the suggested mechanisms for generating ownership by investigating their effects in still developing and incomplete stages in children. We suggest testable predictions for future studies investigating both body ownership and motor skills throughout the lifespan.

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