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Being Moved by the Self and Others: Influence of Empathy on Self-Motion Perception

Lopez, C; Falconer, CJ; Mast, FW; (2013) Being Moved by the Self and Others: Influence of Empathy on Self-Motion Perception. PLoS One , 8 (1) , Article e48293. 10.1371/journal.pone.0048293. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: The observation of conspecifics influences our bodily perceptions and actions: Contagious yawning, contagious itching, or empathy for pain, are all examples of mechanisms based on resonance between our own body and others. While there is evidence for the involvement of the mirror neuron system in the processing of motor, auditory and tactile information, it has not yet been associated with the perception of self-motion. Methodology/Principal Findings: We investigated whether viewing our own body, the body of another, and an object in motion influences self-motion perception. We found a visual-vestibular congruency effect for self-motion perception when observing self and object motion, and a reduction in this effect when observing someone else's body motion. The congruency effect was correlated with empathy scores, revealing the importance of empathy in mirroring mechanisms. Conclusions/Significance: The data show that vestibular perception is modulated by agent-specific mirroring mechanisms. The observation of conspecifics in motion is an essential component of social life, and self-motion perception is crucial for the distinction between the self and the other. Finally, our results hint at the presence of a “vestibular mirror neuron system”.

Type: Article
Title: Being Moved by the Self and Others: Influence of Empathy on Self-Motion Perception
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048293
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0048293
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright: © 2013 Lopez et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Funding: This research was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SINERGIA project “Balancing Self and Body”: CRSII1-125135). CL is supported by the Volkswagen Stiftung's European Platform for Life Sciences, Mind Sciences, and the Humanities (“The (Un)bound Body Project. Exploring the constraints of embodiment & the limits of body representation”). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1383840
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