Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 228, Issue 2, pp 173–181 | Cite as

“Self pop-out”: agency enhances self-recognition in visual search

  • R. SalomonEmail author
  • M. Lim
  • O. Kannape
  • J. Llobera
  • O. Blanke
Research Article


In real-life situations, we are often required to recognize our own movements among movements originating from other people. In social situations, these movements are often correlated (for example, when dancing or walking with others) adding considerable difficulty to self-recognition. Studies from visual search have shown that visual attention can selectively highlight specific features to make them more salient. Here, we used a novel visual search task employing virtual reality and motion tracking to test whether visual attention can use efferent information to enhance self-recognition of one’s movements among four or six moving avatars. Active movements compared to passive movements allowed faster recognition of the avatar moving like the subject. Critically, search slopes were flat for the active condition but increased for passive movements, suggesting efficient search for active movements. In a second experiment, we tested the effects of using the participants’ own movements temporally delayed as distractors in a self-recognition discrimination task. We replicated the results of the first experiment with more rapid self-recognition during active trials. Importantly, temporally delayed distractors increased reaction times despite being more perceptually different than the spatial distractors. The findings demonstrate the importance of agency in self-recognition and self-other discrimination from movement in social settings.


Self-recognition Agency Virtual reality Body representation Social psychology Visual search 



O.B. is supported by the Bertarelli Foundation, the Swiss National Science Foundation, and the European Science Foundation. R.S. was supported by the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) “SYNAPSY—The Synaptic Bases of Mental Diseases” financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (No 51AU40_125759).

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Salomon
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • M. Lim
    • 2
  • O. Kannape
    • 2
  • J. Llobera
    • 1
    • 2
  • O. Blanke
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Neuroprosthetics, School of Life SciencesEcole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)LausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, Brain Mind InstituteEcole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)LausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of NeurologyUniversity HospitalGenevaSwitzerland

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