Multisensory Origin of the Subjective First-Person Perspective: Visual, Tactile, and Vestibular Mechanisms


In three experiments we investigated the effects of visuo-tactile and visuo-vestibular conflict about the direction of gravity on three aspects of bodily self-consciousness: self-identification, self-location, and the experienced direction of the first-person perspective. Robotic visuo-tactile stimulation was administered to 78 participants in three experiments. Additionally, we presented participants with a virtual body as seen from an elevated and downward-directed perspective while they were lying supine and were therefore receiving vestibular and postural cues about an upward-directed perspective. Under these conditions, we studied the effects of different degrees of visuo-vestibular conflict, repeated measurements during illusion induction, and the relationship to a classical measure of visuo-vestibular integration. Extending earlier findings on experimentally induced changes in bodily self-consciousness, we show that self-identification does not depend on the experienced direction of the first-person perspective, whereas self-location does. Changes in bodily self-consciousness depend on visual gravitational signals. Individual differences in the experienced direction of first-person perspective correlated with individual differences in visuo-vestibular integration. Our data reveal important contributions of visuo-vestibular gravitational cues to bodily self-consciousness. In particular we show that the experienced direction of the first-person perspective depends on the integration of visual, vestibular, and tactile signals, as well as on individual differences in idiosyncratic visuo-vestibular strategies. © 2013 Pfeiffer et al.