Reflections on the hand: the use of a mirror highlights the contributions of interpreted and retinotopic representations in the rubber-hand illusion.Perception. 2011; 40(11):1320-34.P
In the rubber-hand illusion, observing a rubber hand stroked in synchrony with one's own hand results in mislocalisation of the own hand, which is perceived as being located closer to the rubber hand. This illusion depends on having the rubber hand placed at a plausible egocentric orientation with respect to the observer. In the present study, we took advantage of this finding in order to compare the relative influence on the illusion of the rubber hand's perceived retinotopic image against its real-world position. The rubber hand was positioned egocentrically (fingers away from the participant) or allocentrically (fingers towards the participant), while participants viewed it either directly or via a mirror that was placed facing the participant. In the mirror conditions, the orientation of the retinotopic image of the hand (either egocentric or allocentric) was opposed to its real-world orientation. We found that the illusion was elicited in both mirror conditions, to roughly the same extent. Thus either of two representations can elicit the rubber-hand illusion: a world-centred understanding of the scene, resulting from the inferred position of the hand based on its mirror reflection, or a purely visual retinotopic representation of the viewed hand. In the mirror conditions, the illusion was somewhat weaker than in the typical directly viewed egocentric condition. We attribute this to competition between two incompatible representations introduced by the presence of the mirror. Finally, in two control experiments we ruled out that this reduction was due to two properties of mirror reflections: the increased perceived distance of items and the reversal of the apparent handedness of the rubber hand.