Affective certainty and congruency of touch modulate the experience of the rubber hand illusion

Sci Rep. 2019 Feb 22;9(1):2635. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-38880-5.


Our sense of body ownership relies on integrating different sensations according to their temporal and spatial congruency. Nevertheless, there is ongoing controversy about the role of affective congruency during multisensory integration, i.e. whether the stimuli to be perceived by the different sensory channels are congruent or incongruent in terms of their affective quality. In the present study, we applied a widely used multisensory integration paradigm, the Rubber Hand Illusion, to investigate the role of affective, top-down aspects of sensory congruency between visual and tactile modalities in the sense of body ownership. In Experiment 1 (N = 36), we touched participants with either soft or rough fabrics in their unseen hand, while they watched a rubber hand been touched synchronously with the same fabric or with a 'hidden' fabric of 'uncertain roughness'. In Experiment 2 (N = 50), we used the same paradigm as in Experiment 1, but replaced the 'uncertainty' condition with an 'incongruent' one, in which participants saw the rubber hand being touched with a fabric of incongruent roughness and hence opposite valence. We found that certainty (Experiment 1) and congruency (Experiment 2) between the felt and vicariously perceived tactile affectivity led to higher subjective embodiment compared to uncertainty and incongruency, respectively, irrespective of any valence effect. Our results suggest that congruency in the affective top-down aspects of sensory stimulation is important to the multisensory integration process leading to embodiment, over and above temporal and spatial properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Female
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Illusions / physiology*
  • Proprioception / physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Touch / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology