Some investigators of the rubber hand illusion (RHI) have suggested that when standard RHI induction procedures are employed, if the rubber hand is experienced by participants as owned, their corresponding biological hands are experienced as disowned. Others have demurred: drawing upon a variety of experimental data and conceptual considerations, they infer that experience of the RHI might include the experience of a supernumerary limb, but that experienced disownership of biological hands does not occur. Indeed, some investigators even categorically deny that any experimental paradigm has been employed or any evidence can be adduced to support the claim that disownership experiences occur during the RHI. It goes without saying that RHI experiences can be elusive, and that there is some evidence to support claims that supernumerary limb experiences can sometimes occur. Here, however, we test the claim that the conscious experience of disownership can occur during the RHI. In order to test this claim, we developed two new online proxies-onset time for the illusion and illusion duration-and combined these with established questionnaires that concern the conscious contents of the RHI, in particular ownership/disownership experiences. Both online proxy data and post hoc questionnaire data converge in supporting the claim that disownership experiences do occur, at least when the left hand is the object of investigation. Our findings that onset time and illusion duration are reliable measures suggest that investigations of the RHI stand to benefit by devoting more attention to data collected while the RHI is being experienced, in particular data concerning temporal dynamics.
Cognitive Research: Principles And Implications, (2017) 2:4