Changing bodies changes minds: owning another body affects social cognition

Trends Cogn Sci. 2015 Jan;19(1):6-12. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2014.11.001. Epub 2014 Dec 15.


Research on stereotypes demonstrates how existing prejudice affects the way we process outgroups. Recent studies have considered whether it is possible to change our implicit social bias by experimentally changing the relationship between the self and outgroups. In a number of experimental studies, participants have been exposed to bodily illusions that induced ownership over a body different to their own with respect to gender, age, or race. Ownership of an outgroup body has been found to be associated with a significant reduction in implicit biases against that outgroup. We propose that these changes occur via a process of self association that first takes place in the physical, bodily domain as an increase in perceived physical similarity between self and outgroup member. This self association then extends to the conceptual domain, leading to a generalization of positive self-like associations to the outgroup.

Keywords: bodily illusions; body ownership; immersive virtual reality; implicit attitudes; racial biases; social cognition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Group Processes
  • Humans
  • Illusions*
  • Prejudice*
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Perception*
  • User-Computer Interface