Immersive virtual reality (IVR) has been successfully exploited in the study of body ownership illusions - a topic that contributes to the question of how the human brain represents the body. Embodiment with a life-sized virtual body seen from first person perspective in IVR typically leads to the perceptual illusion of ownership and the illusion agency with respect to the virtual body. Since the real body can be replaced by a virtual body, the virtual body may be designed to have quite different characteristics from the real one - for example, be a different age or race. Here we report how different types of body can at least temporarily influence aspects of perception, attitudes and behaviours of participants, lead to illusory agency, and the consequences of these findings for rehabilitation at both the personal level (psychological rehabilitation) and the social (e.g., reducing outgroup prejudice).
Mel Slater is an ICREA Research Professor at the University of Barcelona in the Faculty of Psychology. He became Professor of Virtual Environments at University College London in 1997 in the Department of Computer Science. He has been involved in research in virtual reality since the early 1990s, and has been first supervisor of 36 completed PhDs in graphics and virtual reality since 1989. In 2005 he was awarded the Virtual Reality Career Award by IEEE Virtual Reality ‘In Recognition of Seminal Achievements in Engineering Virtual Reality.’ He has been involved in and led several international projects in this field. He held a European Research Council grant TRAVERSE. He has contributed to the scientific study of virtual reality and to technical development of this field, and also contributed to the use of virtual reality in other fields, notably psychology (in relation to clinical psychology - studies of paranoia - and also social psychology) and the cognitive neuroscience of how the brain represents the body. His current publications can be seen on http://publicationslist.org/melslater.