If I were you: perceptual illusion of body swapping

PLoS One. 2008;3(12):e3832. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003832. Epub 2008 Dec 3.


The concept of an individual swapping his or her body with that of another person has captured the imagination of writers and artists for decades. Although this topic has not been the subject of investigation in science, it exemplifies the fundamental question of why we have an ongoing experience of being located inside our bodies. Here we report a perceptual illusion of body-swapping that addresses directly this issue. Manipulation of the visual perspective, in combination with the receipt of correlated multisensory information from the body was sufficient to trigger the illusion that another person's body or an artificial body was one's own. This effect was so strong that people could experience being in another person's body when facing their own body and shaking hands with it. Our results are of fundamental importance because they identify the perceptual processes that produce the feeling of ownership of one's body.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Image*
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Human Body
  • Humans
  • Illusions / psychology*
  • Male
  • Perceptual Distortion*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Space Perception*
  • Touch / physiology
  • Visual Perception*