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Mind the body (2) A phenomenal contrast for bodily ownership

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Ten years ago, Susanna Siegel proposed the method of phenomenal contrast in order to determine the type of properties that are represented in perceptual experiences. In brief, do we see only lines and colors or do we also see pine trees? Her method proceeds in two steps. First, one describes a situation in which there is intuitively a contrast between two experiences, only one of which instantiates the high-level property (e.g., seeing a tree before and after becoming an expert pine tree spotter). The second step consists in drawing an inference to the best explanation of this contrast by ruling out alternative explanations. Most debates on the permissible content of perception have focused on visual awareness but it may as well be applied to bodily awareness: do we experience only bodily posture and pressure or do we also experience our body as our own? One should then consider borderline cases in which the awareness of the high-level property of ownership is altered, namely disownership disorders and the rubber hand illusion.  Somatoparaphrenia: After a lesion in the right parietal lobe some patients deny that one of their limbs belongs to them: “Ex: Whose arm is this? A.R.: It’s not mine”.  They can regain a sense of ownership towards their hand after vestibular stimulation: “Ex: (Raises the patient’s left arm.) Is this arm yours? A.R: Why, yes”.  This recovery is only temporary and two hours later they deny again that this is their own hand: “Ex: (Points to the patient’s felt arm.) Whose arm is this? A.R.: It’s my mother’s.”  (Bisiach et al. 1991, p. 1030). The Rubber Hand Illusion(RHI): Participants sit with their arm hidden behind a screen, while looking at a rubber hand presented in their bodily alignment; the rubber hand can then be touched either in synchrony or in asynchrony with their own hand. Participants report ownership over the rubber hand after synchronous stroking only: “I found myself looking at the. . .

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News source: Philosophy of Mind – The Brains Blog

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