The present work investigates the development of bodily self-consciousness and its relation to multisensory bodily information, by measuring for the first time the development of responses to the full body illusion in childhood. We tested three age groups of children: 6- to 7-year-olds (n = 28); 8- to 9-year-olds (n = 21); 10- to 11-year-olds (n = 19), and a group of adults (n = 31). Each participant wore a head-mounted display (HMD) which displayed a view from a video camera positioned 2 metres behind their own back. Thus, they could view a virtual body from behind. We manipulated visuo-tactile synchrony by showing the participants a view of their virtual back being stroked with a stick at the same time and same place as their real back (synchronous condition), or at different times and places (asynchronous condition). After each period of stroking, we measured three aspects of bodily self-consciousness: drift in perceived self-location, self-identification with the virtual body, and touch referral to the virtual body. Results show that self-identification with the virtual body was significantly stronger in the synchronous condition than in the asynchronous condition even in the youngest group tested; however, the size of this effect increased with age. Touch referral to the virtual body was greater in the synchronous condition than in the asynchronous condition only for 10- to 11-year-olds and adults. Drift in perceived self-location was greater in the synchronous condition than in the asynchronous condition only for adults. Thus, the youngest age tested can self-identify with a virtual body, but the links between multisensory signals and bodily self-consciousness develop significantly across childhood. This suggests a long period of development of the bodily self and exciting potential for the use of virtual reality technologies with children.
Bibliographical noteCowie D, McKenna A, Bremner AJ, Aspell JE. The development of bodily self‐consciousness: changing responses to the Full Body Illusion in childhood. Dev Sci. 2018;21:e12557. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12557
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