Skip to main content

The Alien-Hand Experiment

Abstract

This article reintroduces a phenomenological experiment designed in the early 1960’s, The Alien-Hand Experiment (TAHE), and it illustrates how phenomena denoted by theoretical concepts like body image, body schema and agency can be studied via the experiment. An analysis of the verbal reports from 26 subjects who participated in TAHE is presented in this article. Subjects were divided into three groups: A group of non-bulimic men, a group of non-bulimic women and a group of female bulimics. The group of (female) bulimics was studied due to the widely spread notion that subjects suffering from eating disorders have a distorted body image. TAHE can be thought of as both a qualitative and quantitative way to study the phenomena arising when the normal relationship between motor behaviour and body experience is disrupted. The present investigation is not an operational definition of body schema and body image, but the two concepts offer a useful interpretive framework.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Cash, T. F. 1990. The psychology of physical appearance: Aesthetics, attributes, and images, In: T. Pruzinski and T. F. Cash (eds), Body Images. Development, Deviance, and Change (pp. 51–79). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cooper, Z. and Fairburn, C. 1987. The eating disorder examination: A semi-structured interview for the assessment of the specific psychopathology of eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders 6(1): 1–8.

    Google Scholar 

  • Daprati, E., Franck, N., Georgieff, N., Proust, J., Pacherie, E., Dalery, J. and Jeannerod, M. 1997. Looking for the agent: An investigation into consciousness of action and self-consciousness in schizophrenic patients. Cognition 65: 71–86.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Elsass, P. and Jespersen, E. 1993. Kroppens selvfornemmelse. Philosophia – Tidsskrift for filosofi. Tema: Den levede krop 22: 61–82.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fisher, S. 1986. Development and Structure of the Body Image, Vol. 1 and 2. London: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gallagher, S. 1986. Body image and body schema: A conceptual clarification. Journal of Mind and Behavior 7: 541–554.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gallagher, S. 2001. Dimensions of embodiment: Body image and body schema in medical contexts. In: K. Toombs (ed), Handbook in the Philosophy of Medicine, Vol. 1: Phenomenology and Medicine (pp. 147–175). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jeannerod, M. 1997. The Cognitive Neuroscience of Action. Malden, MA, US: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lunn, S., Theilgaard, A. and Winther, G. 1994. Gruppeterapeutisk behandling af bulimi. In: S. Aagaard, B. Bechgaard and G. Winther (eds), Gruppeanalytisk psykoterapi (pp. 181–199). København: Hans Reitzles Forlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • Merleau-Ponty, M. 1962. Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moss, D. 1989. Brain, body, and world: Body image and the psychology of the body. In: R. S. Valle and S. Halling (eds), Existential-Phenomenological Perspectives in Psychology. Exploring the Breadth of Human Experience (pp. 63–82). New York: Plenum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nielsen, T. I. 1963. Volition: A new experimental approach. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 225–230.

  • Nielsen, T. I. 1978. Acts. Analysis and Syntheses of Human Acting – Concerning the Subject and from the Standpoint of the Subject. An English ResumŽ of a Treatise in Danish, Bibliography, Figures, and Tables of Results. Copenhagen, Hellerup: Dansk Psykologisk Forlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • Paillard, J. 1999. Body schema and body image – A double dissociation in deafferented patients. In: G. N. Gantchev, S. Mori and J. Massion (eds), Motor Control, Today and Tomorrow (pp. 197–214). Sofia: Academic Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Petersen, J. M. 2001. Rubinog Københavnerfænomenologien. In: C. R. Hansen and B. Karpatschof (eds), Københavnerfænomenologien – bisat eller genfødt? (pp. 33–48). København: Danmarks Pædagogiske Universitet.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pruzinski, T. and Cash, T. F. (eds) 1990. Body Images. Development, Deviance, and Change. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rosen, J. C. 1990. Body-Image disturbances in eating disorders. In: T. F. Cash and T. Pruzinsky (eds), Body Images. Development, Deviance and Change (pp. 190–214). New York, London: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rossetti, Y. 2001. Implicit perception in action: Short-lived motor representation of space. In: P. G. Grossenbacher (ed), Finding Consciousness in the Brain: A Neurocognitive Approach (pp. 133–181). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rubin, E. 1949. Experimenta Psychologica. Collected Scientific Papers in German, English & French. Copenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard.

    Google Scholar 

  • Slade, P. D. 1994. What is body image? Behaviour Research and Therapy 32(5): 497–502.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Sullivan, R. 1969. Experimentally induced somatagnosia. Archives of General Psychiatry 20: 71–77.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Tranekjaer Rasmussen, E. 1953. Berkeley and modern psychology. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science IV(13).

  • Van den Bos, E. and Jeannerod, M. 2002. Sense of body and sense of action both contribute to self-recognition. Cognition 85: 177–187.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Witkin, H. A., Dyk, R. B., Faterson, H. F., Goodenough, D. R. and Karp, S. A. 1962.Psychological Differentiation Studies of Development. New York, London: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jesper BrØsted SØrensen.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

SØrensen, J.B. The Alien-Hand Experiment. Phenom Cogn Sci 4, 73–90 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11097-005-5854-4

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11097-005-5854-4

  • body image
  • body schema
  • bulimia nervosa
  • Copenhagen school of phenomenological psychology
  • sense of agency
  • The Alien-Hand Experiment