Exploring the development of high-level contributions to body representation using the rubber hand illusion and the monkey hand illusion

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During development our body undergoes significant changes, yet we are able to maintain a coherent experience of our body and sense of self. Bodily experience is thought to comprise integration of multisensory signals (vision, touch, proprioception) constrained by top-down knowledge of body appearance. Evidence from developmental studies suggests that low-level multisensory integration develops throughout childhood, reaching adult levels by 10 years. However, how high-level cognitive knowledge changes during childhood to constrain our multisensory body experience is unknown. This study describes four experiments examining high-level contributions to the bodily experience in children compared to adults using the Rubber Hand Illusion and a Monkey Hand Illusion. We found that children (5-17 years) exhibited more flexible body representations, showing stronger illusions for small and fantastical (monkey) fake hands compared to adults. Conversely, using a task indirectly capturing changes in hand size, we found that children and adults demonstrated statistically equivalent increases and decreases in hand size following illusions over large and small hands, respectively. Interestingly, at baseline children showed a bias in reporting larger hand size judgments that decreased with age. Finally, we did not find a relationship between individual differences in fantasy proneness and illusion strength for a fantastical (monkey) hand for children or adults suggesting that developmental changes of top-down constraints are not purely driven by more diffuse boundaries between imagination and reality. These data suggest that high-level constraints acting on our multisensory body experience change during development, allowing children a more flexible bodily experience compared to adults.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105477
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Early online date24 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s).


  • ;Body Ownership
  • Embodiment
  • Rubber Hand Illusion
  • Fantasy proneness
  • Development
  • Multisensory Integration

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