"Let's get virtual": Tool embodiment occurs via physical and virtual tool interaction


Tool embodiment occurs when the neural representation of the body (body schema) incorporates the tool after physical interaction with the tool. We investigated if tool embodiment can occur through different mediums of tool interaction. Participants completed a response time task sensitive to tool embodiment in which they responded to targets presented on the image of a model holding a rake. Targets were presented on the foot, hand and rake. This task was completed before and after performing a tool-use task in which a rake moved a ball around a course. In the real task, participants held a real plastic rake to move a real ball. In the virtual tasks, an avatar holding a virtual rake was projected on to a screen and participants used a keyboard or held a Wii remote to move the virtual rake. The results indicate that tool embodiment occurred in each of the training conditions - RTs to targets presented on the hand were significantly shorter than RTs to targets on the rake prior to experience, but there was no difference between RTs to targets on the hand and rake after the rake interaction task. Further, there was a significant pre/post experience reduction in RTs to targets on the rake. Consistent with Jovanov et al. (2015; EBR), it is concluded that the rake was processed as separate from the body before experience, but that, through real and virtual experience, it was incorporated into the body schema and processed as an extension of the hand.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by grants from SSHRC and NSERC.