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The role of hand size in body representation: a developmental investigation

Cowie, Dorothy and Gottwald, Janna M. and Bird, Laura-Ashleigh and Bremner, Andrew J. (2022) 'The role of hand size in body representation: a developmental investigation.', Scientific Reports, 12 (1). p. 19281.


Knowledge of one’s own body size is a crucial facet of body representation, both for acting on the environment and perhaps also for constraining body ownership. However, representations of body size may be somewhat plastic, particularly to allow for physical growth in childhood. Here we report a developmental investigation into the role of hand size in body representation (the sense of body ownership, perception of hand position, and perception of own-hand size). Using the rubber hand illusion paradigm, this study used different fake hand sizes (60%, 80%, 100%, 120% or 140% of typical size) in three age groups (6- to 7-year-olds, 12- to 13-year-olds, and adults; N = 229). We found no evidence that hand size constrains ownership or position: participants embodied hands which were both larger and smaller than their own, and indeed judged their own hands to have changed size following the illusion. Children and adolescents embodied the fake hands more than adults, with a greater tendency to feel their own hand had changed size. Adolescents were particularly sensitive to multisensory information. In sum, we found substantial plasticity in the representation of own-body size, with partial support for the hypothesis that children have looser representations than adults.

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Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date accepted:03 November 2022
Date deposited:14 November 2022
Date of first online publication:11 November 2022
Date first made open access:14 November 2022

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