A very cool experiment in virtual reality has shown it is possible to trick the mind into identifying with a virtual body:
Through these goggles, the volunteers could see a camera
view of their own back – a three-dimensional "virtual own body" that
appeared to be standing in front of them.
When the researchers stroked the back of the volunteer
with a pen, the volunteer could see their virtual back being stroked
either simultaneously or with a time lag.
The volunteers reported that the sensation seemed to be
caused by the pen on their virtual back, rather than their real back,
making them feel as if the virtual body was their own rather than a
Even when the camera was switched to film the back of a
mannequin being stroked rather than their own back, the volunteers
still reported feeling as if the virtual mannequin body was their own.
And when the researchers switched off the goggles,
guided the volunteers back a few paces, and then asked them to walk
back to where they had been standing, the volunteers overshot the
target, returning nearer to the position of their "virtual self".
This has implications for next-generation video games and virtual reality. It also has interesting implications for consciousness studies in general.