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The role of hand size in body representation: a developmental investigation

Cowie, Dorothy; Gottwald, Janna M.; Bird, Laura-Ashleigh; Bremner, Andrew J.

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Janna M. Gottwald

Laura Bird
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy

Andrew J. Bremner


Knowledge of one’s own body size is a crucial facet of body representation, both for acting on the environment and perhaps also for constraining body ownership. However, representations of body size may be somewhat plastic, particularly to allow for physical growth in childhood. Here we report a developmental investigation into the role of hand size in body representation (the sense of body ownership, perception of hand position, and perception of own-hand size). Using the rubber hand illusion paradigm, this study used different fake hand sizes (60%, 80%, 100%, 120% or 140% of typical size) in three age groups (6- to 7-year-olds, 12- to 13-year-olds, and adults; N = 229). We found no evidence that hand size constrains ownership or position: participants embodied hands which were both larger and smaller than their own, and indeed judged their own hands to have changed size following the illusion. Children and adolescents embodied the fake hands more than adults, with a greater tendency to feel their own hand had changed size. Adolescents were particularly sensitive to multisensory information. In sum, we found substantial plasticity in the representation of own-body size, with partial support for the hypothesis that children have looser representations than adults.


Cowie, D., Gottwald, J. M., Bird, L., & Bremner, A. J. (2022). The role of hand size in body representation: a developmental investigation. Scientific Reports, 12(1), Article 19281.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 3, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 11, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Nov 11, 2022
Publicly Available Date Nov 14, 2022
Journal Scientific Reports
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 1
Article Number 19281


Published Journal Article (1.9 Mb)

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