An "Invisible" Body Could Reduce Your Social Anxiety

Posted on April 29, 2015

Photo: flickr

Using clever camera angles, virtual goggles and physical caresses, a team of researchers was able to make people feel as if they had an invisible body. Furthermore, feeling invisible reduced the anxiety brought on by standing in front of an audience, the researchers found.

"We're still at a very early stage, but it's not impossible that, in a decade or two, we might be able to cloak macroscopic objects, like a human limb or [an entire] human," said Dr. Arvid Guterstam, a neuroscientist at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and co-author of the study, published today (April 23) in the journal Scientific Reports.

The researchers recruited 125 healthy volunteers for eight different experiments. The volunteers wore head-mounted displays that provided real-time video from two cameras set up in the corner of a room at the participants' head level; the cameras were facing the floor, so that when the participants looked down, their bodies would appear to be empty space.

In one set of experiments, the researchers applied the brush strokes to each participant's body in and out of sync with the strokes on the invisible body, or in nonmatching parts of the body, to determine whether it would affect the illusion. As the researchers expected, the synchronous and spatially matching strokes produced a stronger feeling of ownership of the invisible body than the mismatched strokes.

Next, the researchers pretended to threaten the invisible body with a knife, and measured the participants' skin conductance (aka sweat). The volunteers sweated more when they felt the strongest that the invisible body was their own.

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Category(s):Social Anxiety / Phobia

Source material from Scientific American