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22-02-2016 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2017 Open Access

Psychological Research 2/2017

Embodied perspective-taking indicated by selective disruption from aberrant self motion

Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2017
Mark R. Gardner, Chloé Stent, Christine Mohr, John F. Golding


Spatial perspective-taking that involves imagined changes in one’s spatial orientation is facilitated by vestibular stimulation inducing a congruent sensation of self-motion. We examined further the role of vestibular resources in perspective-taking by evaluating whether aberrant and conflicting vestibular stimulation impaired perspective-taking performance. Participants (N = 39) undertook either an “own body transformation” (OBT) task, requiring speeded spatial judgments made from the perspective of a schematic figure, or a control task requiring reconfiguration of spatial mappings from one’s own visuo-spatial perspective. These tasks were performed both without and with vestibular stimulation by whole-body Coriolis motion, according to a repeated measures design, balanced for order. Vestibular stimulation was found to impair performance during the first minute post stimulus relative to the stationary condition. This disruption was task-specific, affecting only the OBT task and not the control task, and dissipated by the second minute post-stimulus. Our experiment thus demonstrates selective temporary impairment of perspective-taking from aberrant vestibular stimulation, implying that uncompromised vestibular resources are necessary for efficient perspective-taking. This finding provides evidence for an embodied mechanism for perspective-taking whereby vestibular input contributes to multisensory processing underlying bodily and social cognition. Ultimately, this knowledge may contribute to the design of interventions that help patients suffering sudden vertigo adapt to the cognitive difficulties caused by aberrant vestibular stimulation.

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