Affective vocalizations influence body ownership as measured in the rubber hand illusion

Tahnée Engelen, Rebecca Watson, Francesco Pavani, Beatrice de Gelder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Emotional signals, like threatening sounds, automatically ready the perceiver to prepare an appropriate defense behavior. Conjecturing that this would manifest itself in extending the safety zone around the body we used the rubber hand illusion (RHI) to test this prediction. The RHI is a perceptual illusion in which body ownership is manipulated by synchronously stroking a rubber hand and real hand occluded from view. Many factors, both internal and external, have been shown to influence the strength of the illusion, yet the effect of emotion perception on body ownership remains unexplored. We predicted that listening to affective vocalizations would influence how strongly participants experience the RHI. In the first experiment four groups were tested that listened either to affective sounds (angry or happy vocalizations), non-vocal sounds or no sound while undergoing synchronous or asynchronous stroking of the real and rubber hand. In a second experiment three groups were tested comparing angry or neutral vocalizations and no sound condition. There was a significantly larger drift towards the rubber hand in the emotion versus the no emotion conditions. We interpret these results in the framework that the spatial increase in the RHI indicates that under threat the body has the capacity to extend its safety zone.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0186009
Number of pages11
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2017


  • Journal Article


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