Changing bodies changes minds: owning another body affects social cognition
TL;DR: This work proposes that changes in implicit social bias occur via a process of self association that first takes place in the physical, bodily domain as an increase in perceived physical similarity between self and outgroup member, leading to a generalization of positive self-like associations to the outgroup.
Abstract: Research on stereotypes demonstrates how existing prejudice affects the way we process outgroups. Recent studies have considered whether it is possible to change our implicit social bias by experimentally changing the relationship between the self and outgroups. In a number of experimental studies, participants have been exposed to bodily illusions that induced ownership over a body different to their own with respect to gender, age, or race. Ownership of an outgroup body has been found to be associated with a significant reduction in implicit biases against that outgroup. We propose that these changes occur via a process of self association that first takes place in the physical, bodily domain as an increase in perceived physical similarity between self and outgroup member. This self association then extends to the conceptual domain, leading to a generalization of positive self-like associations to the outgroup.
Summary (4 min read)
Body representations of self and other.
- Embodied accounts of social cognition suggest that the way in which the authors perceive others' bodies in relation to their own plays a crucial role in sociocognitive processing        .
- The perception of bodily states in others can activate similar bodily states in the self, and this is taken as evidence that their representations of their own bodies and those of others can partially overlap.
- Until recently, research in this area has focused on how existing social bias and prejudice affect the way the authors process outgroup members     , rather than investigating the potential malleability of their ingroup/outgroup classifications.
- Taken together, the findings show that changes in the mental representation of one's own body affect the perceived similarity between one's own body and that of an outgroup, resulting in significant changes in implicit biases.
- The authors here present a possible mechanism underlying these changes, which has far-reaching implications for their understanding of the development and malleability of social attitudes, and the crucial role of basic body representations in these processes.
Racial Biases in Brain, Behaviour and the Body
- A rapidly growing literature suggests that the body is central to their understanding of others.
- Evidence now suggests that this bodily resonance (see Glossary) can afford us a unique, first-person understanding of the experiences of others and is central to a number of social processes  including intention understanding  , empathy  , and emotion recognition  .
- Importantly, recent studies have revealed that social group categorisation, such as that based on racial group membership, can have a strong impact on the extent to which the authors resonate with others' bodily states.
- Furthermore, this diminished neural resonance with the racial outgroup has been found to directly correlate with participants' negative implicit racial biases  .
Changing your body changes your mind
- The question of whether these changes could affect implicit biases against outgroups remained unanswered.
- The more intense the participants' illusion of ownership over the dark-skinned rubber hand, the more positive their implicit racial attitudes became.
- Importantly, such changes in body ownership to incorporate an outgroup body also increase 'bodily resonance' with that outgroup.
- Results showed that the experience of body ownership over the outgroup member's face had increased the Visual Remapping of Touch effect up to the level normally associated with a same-race individual.
- Embodying an avatar representing a 4-year-old child resulted in a bias towards associating the self with child-like compared to adult-like categorizations, as measured using an IAT.
Illusions of self-resemblance may cause a generalisation of self-like associations to an outgroup
- The first relevant finding to support their argument is that experimentally induced modulations of body ownership enhance perceived physical similarity between self and other.
- The authors suggest that this increased perceptual similarity between oneself and an outgroup member leads to a new association being formed between the self-concept and that outgroup.
- For this to occur, two processes are necessary.
- In support of this, the classical conditioning literature has long posited that associative learning of likes and dislikes are based on perceptual similarity, and that this can occur outside of awareness [39, 40] .
- Overall, an intriguing and consistent pattern of results has emerged from independent research groups, whereby changes in the experience of ownership over an outgroup body of different race results in significant reductions of the levels of implicit bias against that outgroup .
- Taken together, these findings suggest that changes in the perceived similarity between self and others, caused by shared multisensory experiences, might 'bridge the gap' between the basic, perceptual representation of bodies, and the complex social mechanisms underlying much of their everyday social interaction.
- An important next step would be to investigate if this increased resonance extends to other domains, e.g., the motor domain, where it could have important consequences for key social processes  .
- These recent findings also lead us to new insights into how implicit social biases are formed and maintained.
- The process by which the perception of bodily states in others can activate similar bodily states in the self [5, 17, 18] .
- This process is thought to be central to a number of fundamental social processes including empathy, action understanding and emotion recognition.
- This can be measured at the neural level, for example by recording activity in the premotor cortex when observing other-performed actions  , or behaviourally, for example by measuring the increase in a participant's tactile sensitivity caused by observing another being touched  .
- Body ownership refers to the special perceptual status of one's own body, which makes bodily sensations seem unique to oneself, that is, the feeling that ''my body'' belongs to me, and is ever present in my mental life [16, 45], also known as Body ownership.
Implicit association task (IAT):
- The IAT is a computerised task which involves a rapid categorisation of verbal stimuli, pictorial stimuli, or both.
- Analysis of the patterns of response times and errors provides a metric of implicit associations between categories.
- Commonly, the associations measured are between a social category, e.g., a specific racial group, and positive versus negative associations, to provide a measure of bias in implicit evaluative attitudes.
- Implicit biases measured using this method have been found to be internally consistent, reliable and predictive of explicit behaviours  .
- A multidimensional construct, comprising a collection of knowledge structures regarding one's attitudes, dispositions, skills and abilities, which are temporally stable and transsituational , also known as Self -concept.
Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI)
- Watching a rubber hand being stroked synchronously with one's own unseen hand causes the rubber hand to be attributed to one's own body, to "feel like it's my hand"  .
- This synchronous stimulation not only elicits a subjective experience of ownership over the hand, but also causes the perceived location of one's own hand to drift towards the rubber hand  and a stress-evoked skin conductance response to be elicited when the rubber hand is threatened  .
- The illusion of ownership over the rubber hand does not occur when the rubber hand is stroked asynchronously with respect to the subject's own hand, and thus experiments investigating body ownership commonly use asynchronous stimulation as a control condition.
- An illusion of the same intensity can be also developed over a virtual hand by either synchronous visuotactile  or visuomotor  correlations.
- This illusion persists through radical transformations such as extensive elongation of the arm  or change in the virtual hand position  with respect to the real one.
- The enfacement illusion is a facial analogue of the rubber hand illusion.
- Participants watch a video showing the face of an unfamiliar other being stroked with a cotton bud on the cheek, while the participant receives identical stroking on their own, congruent cheek in synchrony with the touch they see.
- As in the RHI, synchronous, but not asynchronous, visuotactile stimulation elicits illusory feelings of ownership over the other's face  .
- Enfacement also influences social cognition [33, 34] and produces a measurable bias in self-face recognition, whereby participants perceive the other's face as looking more like their own [26, 35, 36] .
- Illusory ownership over a physical manikin body that substituted the participant's real body was demonstrated in  .
- Participants wear a head-tracked stereo head-mounted display which provides computer generated images immersing the participant in a virtual world.
- The participant's own body is substituted by a virtual body, viewed from a first-person perspective, with a motion capture system so that their virtual body moves with their real body movements.
- Light-skinned Caucasian participants took part in a between-groups experiment where they occupied a White (A) or Black (B) body in a virtual environment.
- Must then be minimised in a similar way, by updating attitudes and beliefs held about oneself and 478 the outgroup.
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Cites background from "Changing bodies changes minds: owni..."
...…are currently applied in the field of social psychology to study and potentially reduce implicit racial and other social biases, by inducing implicit self-identification for out-group members (in terms of race, age, or gender; Banakou et al., 2013; Peck et al., 2013; Maister et al., 2014, 2015)....
Cites background from "Changing bodies changes minds: owni..."
...Maister et al. (2015) have suggested that changes in implicit attitudes occur via a process of self-association that occurs in the physical feeling (i.e., perceived increase in bodily similarity between self and other) domain and then extends to the cognitive (conceptual generalization of positive…...
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Q1. What contributions have the authors mentioned in the paper "Changing bodies changes minds: owning another body affects social cognition" ?
The authors propose that these changes occur via a process of self-association that first takes place 7 in the physical, bodily domain as an increase in perceived physical similarity between self and 8 outgroup member.