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      Feeling Touch Through Glass: A Modified Rubber Hand Paradigm

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          A variation on the rubber hand paradigm creates a striking illusion in which it seems to the participant that she or he is feeling touch through glass. This illusion provides insight about how individuals make use of predictive signals for integrating vision and touch.

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          Roughness perception during the rubber hand illusion.

          Watching a rubber hand being stroked by a paintbrush while feeling identical stroking of one's own occluded hand can create a compelling illusion that the seen hand becomes part of one's own body. It has been suggested that this so-called rubber hand illusion (RHI) does not simply reflect a bottom-up multisensory integration process but that the illusion is also modulated by top-down, cognitive factors. Here we investigated for the first time whether the conceptual interpretation of the sensory quality of the visuotactile stimulation in terms of roughness can influence the occurrence of the illusion and vice versa, whether the presence of the RHI can modulate the perceived sensory quality of a given tactile stimulus (i.e., in terms of roughness). We used a classical RHI paradigm in which participants watched a rubber hand being stroked by either a piece of soft or rough fabric while they received synchronous or asynchronous tactile stimulation that was either congruent or incongruent with respect to the sensory quality of the material touching the rubber hand. (In)congruencies between the visual and tactile stimulation did neither affect the RHI on an implicit level nor on an explicit level, and the experience of the RHI in turn did not cause any modulations of the felt sensory quality of touch on participant's own hand. These findings first suggest that the RHI seems to be resistant to top-down knowledge in terms of a conceptual interpretation of tactile sensations. Second, they argue against the hypothesis that participants own hand tends to disappear during the illusion and that the rubber hand actively replaces it.
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            Tactile expectations and the perception of self-touch: an investigation using the rubber hand paradigm.

            The rubber hand paradigm is used to create the illusion of self-touch, by having the participant administer stimulation to a prosthetic hand while the Examiner, with an identical stimulus (index finger, paintbrush or stick), administers stimulation to the participant's hand. With synchronous stimulation, participants experience the compelling illusion that they are touching their own hand. In the current study, the robustness of this illusion was assessed using incongruent stimuli. The participant used the index finger of the right hand to administer stimulation to a prosthetic hand while the Examiner used a paintbrush to administer stimulation to the participant's left hand. The results indicate that this violation of tactile expectations does not diminish the illusion of self-touch. Participants experienced the illusion despite the use of incongruent stimuli, both when vision was precluded and when visual feedback provided clear evidence of the tactile mismatch. 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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              The rubber hand illusion depends on the tactile congruency of the observed and felt touch.

              The rubber hand illusion (RHI) occurs when the participants' own unseen hand is stroked in synchrony with an observed rubber hand. It manifests itself in terms of a tendency to misreport the position of one's own hand as nearer to the rubber hand (proprioceptive drift) and in terms of feelings of ownership of the rubber hand. Many studies have examined whether the illusion depends on characteristics of the hand (e.g., orientation, skin color), but very few have examined the importance of the tool that delivers the tactile sensation. We demonstrate that the RHI depends on the congruency of the tool used to stroke the real/rubber hands. The RHI is diminished when using tools that are incongruent with respect to their visual appearance and predicted tactile consequences (e.g., touching the dummy with a pencil and the real hand with a paintbrush) relative to when they are congruent. Theoretical models of visuotactile integration used to explain the RHI need to be extended to incorporate the qualitative nature of the observed and felt touch and not just its synchrony and location.

                Author and article information

                SAGE Publications (Sage UK: London, England )
                12 September 2017
                Sep-Oct 2017
                : 8
                : 5
                Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
                Pembroke College, University of Oxford, UK; Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China
                Pembroke College, University of Oxford, UK; Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, USA
                Author notes
                Rebekah C. White, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. Email: Rebekah.White@
                © The Author(s) 2017

                This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

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                September-October 2017


                body representation, tactile congruency, predictive signals, rubber hand illusion


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