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Development of the bodily self: Effects of visuomotor synchrony and visual appearance on virtual embodiment in children and adults


Weijs, Marieke Lieve; Macartney, Elle; Daum, Moritz M; Lenggenhager, Bigna (2021). Development of the bodily self: Effects of visuomotor synchrony and visual appearance on virtual embodiment in children and adults. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 210:105200.

Abstract

The sense of a bodily self is thought to depend on adaptive weighting and integration of bodily afferents and prior beliefs. Evidence from studies using paradigms such as the rubber hand illusion and full body illusion suggests changes in the integration of visuotactile bodily signals throughout childhood. Here, we extended this line of research by assessing how bottom-up visuomotor synchrony and expectancy, modulated by visual appearance of virtual avatars, contribute to embodiment in children. We compared responses to a first-person perspective virtual full body illusion from 8- to 12-year-old children and adults while manipulating synchrony of the avatar’s movements (synchronous, 0.5-s delay, or 1-s delay compared with the participant’s movements) and appearance of the avatar (human or skeleton). We measured embodiment with both subjective questionnaires and objective skin conductance responses to virtual threat. Results showed that children experienced ownership for the virtual avatar in a similar way as adults, which was reduced with increasing asynchrony, and for the skeleton avatar as compared with the human avatar. This modulation of ownership was not reflected in the skin conductance responses, which were equally high in all experimental conditions and only showed a modulation of repetition by age. In contrast, in children the subjective experience of agency was less affected by the dampening effects of visuomotor asynchrony or reduced human likeness and was overall higher. These findings suggest that children can easily embody a virtual avatar but that different aspects of embodiment develop at different rates, which could have important implications for applications of embodied virtual reality.

Abstract

The sense of a bodily self is thought to depend on adaptive weighting and integration of bodily afferents and prior beliefs. Evidence from studies using paradigms such as the rubber hand illusion and full body illusion suggests changes in the integration of visuotactile bodily signals throughout childhood. Here, we extended this line of research by assessing how bottom-up visuomotor synchrony and expectancy, modulated by visual appearance of virtual avatars, contribute to embodiment in children. We compared responses to a first-person perspective virtual full body illusion from 8- to 12-year-old children and adults while manipulating synchrony of the avatar’s movements (synchronous, 0.5-s delay, or 1-s delay compared with the participant’s movements) and appearance of the avatar (human or skeleton). We measured embodiment with both subjective questionnaires and objective skin conductance responses to virtual threat. Results showed that children experienced ownership for the virtual avatar in a similar way as adults, which was reduced with increasing asynchrony, and for the skeleton avatar as compared with the human avatar. This modulation of ownership was not reflected in the skin conductance responses, which were equally high in all experimental conditions and only showed a modulation of repetition by age. In contrast, in children the subjective experience of agency was less affected by the dampening effects of visuomotor asynchrony or reduced human likeness and was overall higher. These findings suggest that children can easily embody a virtual avatar but that different aspects of embodiment develop at different rates, which could have important implications for applications of embodied virtual reality.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Developmental and Educational Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Developmental and Educational Psychology, Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Language:English
Date:1 October 2021
Deposited On:01 Dec 2021 14:06
Last Modified:27 Sep 2022 11:42
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0022-0965
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2021.105200
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPP00P1_170511
  • : Project TitlePlasticity of the bodily self in a life span approach
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)