The Butcher’s Tongue Illusion (from the chip-crunch manipulator)

CharlesSpenceCharles Spence (who was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for earlier work, and who is pictured here) and his colleagues have demonstrated the “butcher’s tongue illusion”. Nicola Twilley, writing in Elements, conveys some of the new study’s flavor:

The tongue in the title of Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory’s new paper, “The Butcher’s Tongue Illusion,” does not come from a butcher shop. “I actually just ordered the most normal-looking rubber tongue from a magic store,” Charles Michel, the report’s lead author and a professionally trained chef, said. “Magicians put them in their mouths and tie them in knots and things like that.”

Michel and his co-authors put their magic tongue to use in a simple but provocative experiment, carried out late last year and described in the current issue of the scientific journal Perception. Although the involvement of a stretchy pink latex tongue makes it easy to mistake the experiment for a cheap gag, it’s actually an important addition to a distinguished tradition of psychological research that studies illusions for what they can reveal about how the brain constructs reality.

The team’s goal was to replicate a famous experiment called the “rubber hand illusion.”

This new study is:

The Butcher’s Tongue Illusion,” Charles Michel, Carlos Velasco, Alejandro Salgado-Montejo, Charles Spence, Perception, vol. 43, 2014, pp. 818 – 824. The team writes:

“We report two experiments, based on a novel variant of the Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI), in which tactile stimulation is referred to an artificial (out-of-body) tongue. In the experiments reported here the participant’s tongue was stimulated while they looked at a mirrored dummy tongue. On average, the participants agreed with the statement that they felt as if they had been touched in the location where they saw the rubber tongue being touched (experiment 1), thus demonstrating visual capture. When the external tongue was illuminated with a laser pointer (experiment 2), a significant proportion of the participants reported feeling either tactile or thermal stimulation on their own tongue. These results therefore demonstrate that the multisensory integration of visual, tactile, and proprioceptive information that gives rise to the RHI can be extended to the tongue (a body part that is rarely seen directly).”

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prize for nutrition was awarded to Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is. REFERENCE: “The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness ofPotato Chips,” Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence, Journal of Sensory Studies, vol. 19, October 2004,  pp. 347-63.

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