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02-07-2018 | Original Article Open Access

Personality assimilation across species: enfacing an ape reduces own intelligence and increases emotion attribution to apes

Psychological Research
Ke Ma, Roberta Sellaro, Bernhard Hommel


Seeing another person’s face while that face and one’s own face are stroked synchronously or controlling a virtual face by moving one’s own induces the illusion that the other face has become a part of oneself—the enfacement effect. Here, we demonstrate that humans can enface even members of another species and that this enfacement promotes “feature migration” in terms of intelligence and emotional attribution from the representation of other to the representation of oneself, and vice versa. We presented participants with a virtual human face moving in or out of sync with their own face, and then morphed it into an ape face. Participants tended to perceive the ape face as their own in the sync condition, as indicated by body-ownership and inclusion-of-others-in-the-self ratings. More interestingly, synchrony also reduced performance in a fluid-intelligence task and increased the willingness to attribute emotions to apes. These observations, which fully replicated in another experiment, fit with the idea that self and other are represented in terms of feature codes, just like non-social events (as implied by the Theory of Event Coding), so that representational self–other overlap invites illusory conjunctions of features from one representation to the other.

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