Virtual body swapping could abolish race biases

With the help of a technique called virtual body swapping, researches have helped people change their attitudes with regard to others.

This technique exposes people to bodily illusions that induce ownership over a body different from their own with respect to race, age or gender.

The researchers used the brain’s ability to bring together information from different senses to make white people feel that they were inhabiting black bodies and adults feel like they possessed in children’s bodies.

(A) The Rubber Hand Illusion; (B) The Enfacement Illusion; (C) Immersive Virtual Reality: (i) A participant wears the head-mounted display, (ii) The participant's view of the situation.  Credit: Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Maister et al.
(A) The Rubber Hand Illusion; (B) The Enfacement Illusion; (C) Immersive Virtual Reality: (i) A participant wears the head-mounted display, (ii) The participant’s view of the situation.
Credit: Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Maister et al.

“The research shows that integration of different sensory signals can allow the brain to update its model of the body and cause people to change their attitudes about others,” said professor Mel Slater from University College London in Britain.

The results have important implications for approaching phenomena such as race and gender discrimination.

“Our findings are important as they motivate a new research area into how self-identity is constructed and how the boundaries between ‘ingroups’ and ‘outgroups’ might be altered,” professor Manos Tsakiris of the Royal Holloway University of London added.

The study appeared in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Reference:

Maister L, Slater M, Sanchez-Vives MV, Tsakiris M. Changing bodies changes minds: owning another body affects social cognition. Trends Cogn Sci. 2014 Nov 25. pii: S1364-6613(14)00234-4. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2014.11.001.

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