Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 744–755 | Cite as

New frontiers in the rubber hand experiment: when a robotic hand becomes one’s own

  • Emilie A. CasparEmail author
  • Albert De Beir
  • Pedro A. Magalhaes De Saldanha Da Gama
  • Florence Yernaux
  • Axel Cleeremans
  • Bram Vanderborght


The rubber hand illusion is an experimental paradigm in which participants consider a fake hand to be part of their body. This paradigm has been used in many domains of psychology (i.e., research on pain, body ownership, agency) and is of clinical importance. The classic rubber hand paradigm nevertheless suffers from limitations, such as the absence of active motion or the reliance on approximate measurements, which makes strict experimental conditions difficult to obtain. Here, we report on the development of a novel technology—a robotic, user- and computer-controllable hand—that addresses many of the limitations associated with the classic rubber hand paradigm. Because participants can actively control the robotic hand, the device affords higher realism and authenticity. Our robotic hand has a comparatively low cost and opens up novel and innovative methods. In order to validate the robotic hand, we have carried out three experiments. The first two studies were based on previous research using the rubber hand, while the third was specific to the robotic hand. We measured both sense of agency and ownership. Overall, results show that participants experienced a “robotic hand illusion” in the baseline conditions. Furthermore, we also replicated previous results about agency and ownership.


Rubber hand illusion Volition Self-awareness Sense of ownership Sense of agency Robotic hand 



This work was funded by the FRS-F.N.R.S. (Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique) and by Grant P7/33 from the Belgian Science Policy Office (Interuniversity Poles of Attraction Program). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We thank the editor and the two anonymous reviewers for commenting on earlier versions of the manuscript. We also thank Jéromy Hrabovecky for his help in the proof of the manual.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emilie A. Caspar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Albert De Beir
    • 2
  • Pedro A. Magalhaes De Saldanha Da Gama
    • 1
  • Florence Yernaux
    • 2
  • Axel Cleeremans
    • 1
  • Bram Vanderborght
    • 2
  1. 1.Consciousness, Cognition and Computation Group (CO3), Centre de Recherche Neurosciences & Cognition (CRCN), ULB Neuroscience Institute (UNI)Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)BruxellesBelgium
  2. 2.Robotics & Multibody Mechanics Research GroupVrij Universiteit Brussel (VUB)BruxellesBelgium

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