"Self pop-out": Agency enhances self-recognition in visual search

R. Salomon, M. Lim, O. Kannape, J. Llobera, O. Blanke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-181
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments 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).


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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