In the presence of others: Self-location, balance control and vestibular processing

Neurophysiol Clin. 2015 Nov;45(4-5):241-54. doi: 10.1016/j.neucli.2015.09.001. Epub 2015 Oct 23.


The degree to which others in our environment influence sensorimotor processing has been a particular focus of cognitive neuroscience for the past two decades. This process of self-other resonance, or shared body representation, has only recently been extended to more global bodily processes such as self-location, self-motion perception, balance and perspective taking. In this review, we outline these previously overlooked areas of research to bridge the distinct field of social neuroscience with global self-perception, vestibular processing and postural control. Firstly, we outline research showing that the presence and movement of others can modulate two fundamental experiences of the self: self-location (the experience of where the self is located in space) and self-motion perception (the experience that oneself has moved or has been moved in space). Secondly, we outline recent research that has shown perturbations in balance control as a result of instability in others in our environment. Conversely to this, we also highlight studies in virtual reality demonstrating the potential benefits of the presence of others in our environment for those undergoing vestibular rehabilitation. Thirdly, we outline studies of first- and third-person perspective taking, which is the ability to have or take a visuo-spatial perspective within and out-with the confines of our own body. These studies demonstrate a contamination of perspective taking processes (i.e. automatic, implicit, third-person perspective taking) in the presence of others. This collection of research highlights the importance of social cues in the more global processing of the self and its accompanying sensory inputs, particularly vestibular signals. Future research will need to better determine the mechanisms of self-other resonance within these processes, including the role of individual differences in the susceptibility to the influence of another.

Keywords: Balance; Conscience de soi; Empathie; Empathy; Imitation; Kinesthésie; Mirror neuron system; Neurosciences sociales; Perspective taking; Posture; Prise de perspective; Résonance sensori-motrice; Self-consciousness; Self-motion perception; Sensorimotor resonance; Social neuroscience; Système des neurones miroirs; Système vestibulaire; Vestibular system; Équilibre.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Body Image*
  • Humans
  • Motion Perception / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Postural Balance*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Vestibule, Labyrinth / physiology*