"Self pop-out": agency enhances self-recognition in visual search

Exp Brain Res. 2013 Jul;228(2):173-81. doi: 10.1007/s00221-013-3549-6. Epub 2013 May 12.


In real-life situations, we are often required to recognize our own movements among movements originating from other people. In social situations, these movements are often correlated (for example, when dancing or walking with others) adding considerable difficulty to self-recognition. Studies from visual search have shown that visual attention can selectively highlight specific features to make them more salient. Here, we used a novel visual search task employing virtual reality and motion tracking to test whether visual attention can use efferent information to enhance self-recognition of one's movements among four or six moving avatars. Active movements compared to passive movements allowed faster recognition of the avatar moving like the subject. Critically, search slopes were flat for the active condition but increased for passive movements, suggesting efficient search for active movements. In a second experiment, we tested the effects of using the participants' own movements temporally delayed as distractors in a self-recognition discrimination task. We replicated the results of the first experiment with more rapid self-recognition during active trials. Importantly, temporally delayed distractors increased reaction times despite being more perceptually different than the spatial distractors. The findings demonstrate the importance of agency in self-recognition and self-other discrimination from movement in social settings.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Young Adult