The effect of visually manipulating back size and morphology on back perception, body ownership, and attitudes towards self-capacity during a lifting task

Kristy Themelis, Natasha Ratcliffe, Tomohiko Nishigami, Benedict M. Wand, Roger Newport, Tasha R. Stanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Body re-sizing illusions can profoundly alter perception of our own body. We investigated whether creating the illusion of a muscled and fit-looking back (Strong) influenced perceived back size, body ownership, and attitudes towards self-capacity during a lifting task. Twenty-four healthy male volunteers performed a standardised lifting task while viewing real-time (delay < 20 ms) video of their own back through a head-mounted display under four different conditions (Normal size, Strong, Reshaped, Large; order randomised). The MIRAGE-mediated reality system was used to modify the shape, size, and morphology of the back. Participants were poor at recognizing the correct appearance of their back, for both implicit (perceived width of shoulders and hips) and explicit (questionnaire) measures of back size. Visual distortions of body shape (Reshaped condition) altered implicit back size measures. However, viewing a muscled back (Strong condition) did not result in a sense of agency or ownership and did not update implicit perception of the back. No conditions improved perceptions/attitudes of self-capacity (perceived back strength, perceived lifting confidence, and perceived back fitness). The results lend support for the importance of the embodiment of bodily changes to induce changes in perception. Further work is warranted to determine whether increased exposure to illusory changes would alter perceptions and attitudes towards self-capacity or whether different mechanisms are involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1816-1829
Number of pages14
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 2 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Cite this