Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 118: Jul-Aug 1998

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Tactile Ventriloquism

An eerie psychological experiment has been invented by M. Bitvinick at the University of Pittsburgh.

  1. The subject rests his or her arm and hand on a table but is prevented from seeing them by a screen.
  2. A realistic rubber arm and hand are placed next to the real arm and hand but on the other side of the screen and in full view of the subject.
  3. The experimenter strokes each hand in synchrony with small paintbrushes.

    Result: The subject thinks that the rubber hand is his or her own and belongs to his or her body.
  4. The experimenter strokes only the rubber hand.

    Result: The subject claims his or her hand has become numb.

Botvinick terms this transfer of tactile sensations "tactile ventriloquism."

(Anonymous; "There's the Rub," Discover, 19:21, June 1998.)

Comment. Not reported: (5) Only the real hand is stroked. Of course, the subject would see that the rubber hand, which is now thought to be his or her own, is not being stroked. Nevertheless, what would be the result, especially after a long session of synchronous stroking? What connection, if any, is there with phantom-limb phenomena?

From Science Frontiers #118, JUL-AUG 1998. 1998-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987