Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science


The Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science publishes research in a wide range of journals and other scientific publications.

Featured Article

Trait phenomenological control predicts experience of mirror synaesthesia and the rubber hand illusion 

Lush, P., Botan, V., Scott, R.B., Seth, A.K., Ward, J., Dienes, Zrubber hands stacked in black boxes

Published: 25.09.2020

Nature Comms 11:4853

Much excitement in psychology has surrounded observations that people’s experiences of their bodies is remarkably changeable.  In the rubber hand illusion, for example, touch can be felt on a fake hand, and in mirror synaesthesia, just seeing somebody being hurt can lead to feelings of pain. A common explanation here is that these unusual experiences are evidence for multisensory integration - but is that really what’s going on?  Another possibility, explored in our recent study is that such experiences are imaginative suggestion effects which occur when participants work out what experiences they are expected to have while undergoing the experiences. Imaginative suggestion has been extensively studied within the context of hypnosis (e.g., following a hypnotic induction), but response to imaginative suggestion  does not require the hypnotic context, and imaginative suggestions can be indirect (that is the suggestion may arise from indirect cues rather than verbal instruction). People differ in the degree to which they can successfully respond to imaginative suggestion with changes in experience. Therefore, measuring relationships between response to direct imaginative suggestions and response to the rubber hand illusion or mirror synaesthesia tests may indicate the degree to which these effects are suggestion effects. This paper reports that how people respond to hypnotic imaginative suggestion substantially predicts their reports of unusual experience in rubber hand illusion and mirror synaesthesia studies, indicating that striking changes in experience in psychology experiments may be imaginative suggestion effects.

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