Many individuals report having an out-of-body experience at some point in their life, and now scientists are homing in on the cause. A study published in Cortex in July hints that these strange perceptual illusions may arise from a less cohesive sense of one’s own body. The researchers surveyed a group of psychologically healthy people and found that one in four had had an out-of-body experience. Then the subjects were asked to imitate the body position of a mannequin and figure out on which hand the dummy was wearing a distinctive piece of jewelry. Those who had reported an out-of-body experience were worse at the task, which suggests they had a harder time integrating sensory information and perceiving their body’s position. This weaker internal link to the body, the researchers suggest, may make it easier to perceive the body as if from an outside perspective.
This article was originally published with the title "That's Me Over There" in SA Mind 22, 6, 10 (January 2012)