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Observations placeholder

Ramachandran, Dr V S - The body image game



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 1


Confirmation that body image is a ‘software’ based thing and is not based on our sensations also comes from Dr Ramachandran…………….


A description of the experience

Phantoms in the Brain – Dr V. S. Ramachandran [Professor and Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition, University of California and visiting fellow All Souls College, Oxford]

Your own body is a phantom, one that your brain has temporarily constructed purely for convenience.  I know this sounds astonishing so I will demonstrate to you the malleability of your own body image and how you can alter it profoundly in just a few seconds.  …

You need two helpers.  Sit in a chair, blindfolded and ask 'helper one' to sit on another chair in front of you, facing the same direction as you are.  Have  'helper two' stand on your right side and give her the following instructions;

'Take my right hand and guide my index finger to 'helper one's' nose.  Move my hand in a rhythmic manner so that my index finger repeatedly strokes and taps her nose in a random sequence like a Morse code.  At the same time, use your left hand to stroke my nose with exactly the same rhythm and timing.  The stroking and tapping of my nose and helper one's nose should be in perfect synchrony'

After thirty or forty seconds, if you're lucky, you will develop the uncanny illusion that you are touching your nose out there or that your nose has been dislocated and stretched to about 3 feet in front of your face.  The more random and unpredictable the stroking sequence, the more striking the illusion will be.

..................This simple experiment not only shows how malleable your body image is but also illustrates the single most important principle underlying all of perception – that the mechanisms of perception are mainly involved in extracting statistical correlations from the world to create a model that is temporarily useful.

Now just think what this means.  For your entire life, you've been walking around assuming your 'self' is anchored to a single body that remains stable and permanent at least until death.  Indeed, the 'loyalty' of your self to your own body is so axiomatic that you never even pause to think about it, let alone question it.  Yet these experiments suggest the exact opposite – that your body image, despite all its appearance of durability, is an entirely transitory internal construct that can be profoundly modified with just a few simple tricks.  It is merely a shell that you've temporarily created

The source of the experience

Ramachandran, Dr V S

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps