'It takes 2 to know 1': Shared experiences change self-recognition

Jan 07, 2009

Looking at yourself in the mirror every morning, you never think to question whether the person you see is actually you. You feel familiar—at home with your own unique self image. After all, you have been sporting the same old face for years. An innovative study published December 24, 2008 in the online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE, by Dr Manos Tsakiris, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, challenges this common-sense notion about our own self image. The study shows for the first time that the image we hold of our own face can actually change through shared experiences with other people's faces.

The study reveals that recognition of our own face is not as consistent as we might think. The participants' ability to recognise their own face changed when they watched the face of another person being touched at the same time as their own face was touched, as though they were looking in a mirror. Specifically, when asked to recognize a picture of their own face, the picture that people chose included features of the other person they had previously seen. This did not happen when the two faces were touched out of synchrony.

Sharing an experience with another person may change the perception we have of our own self, such as the recognition of our own face. "As a result of shared experiences, we tend to perceive other people as being more similar to us, and this applies also to the recognition of our own face. This process may be at the root of constructing a self-identity in a social context," says Dr Tsakiris who led the study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK.

The findings imply that shared experiences may influence the way we perceive ourselves and possibly the way we interact with others. Dr Tsakiris explains, "If I feel that you are more like me, I might then behave to you in a different way. We now test whether shared experiences can make us stereotype others less, or change our attitudes towards people of different social groups, race or gender."

Research on self-recognition may also have a significant impact in understanding and helping people with appearance-related concerns. Shared sensory experiences may ease such concerns and provide insights into the mechanisms that cause them.

Citation: Tsakiris M (2008) Looking for Myself: Current Multisensory Input Alters Self-Face Recognition. PLoS ONE 3(12): e4040. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004040
dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0004040

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Teenage self-harm linked to problems in later life

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

In HP split, each unit to face a test

Oct 10, 2014

If you cut one slow-moving mega-company in half, do you get two fast-moving innovators? Not even Meg Whitman, chief executive of Hewlett-Packard Co., is promising that. Whitman announced Monday that the computer industry giant will cleave itself in two: one company fo ...

GoPro gearing up to share more of its users' videos

Oct 10, 2014

For years, thrill seekers have worn GoPro video cameras to capture hair-raising skydiving, motorcycle racing and snowboarding footage from a first-person point of view. They've documented up-close and personal encounters ...

Under Rainier's crater, a natural laboratory like no other

Oct 03, 2014

Counting all the ups and downs, he had climbed more than 15,000 feet to get here - past yawning crevasses and over cliffs where a single misstep could send a rope team tumbling. His party was pummeled by a lightning storm ...

Recommended for you

Teenage self-harm linked to problems in later life

4 hours ago

Those who self-harm as teenagers are more at risk of developing mental health and substance misuse problems as adults, new research from the biggest study of its kind in the UK has revealed.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

DearLord
not rated yet Jan 07, 2009
After reading Helter Skelter, I think Charles Manson had already discovered this.