The magic hand: plasticity of mental hand representation

Cocchini, Gianna; Galligan, Toni; Mora, Laura and Kuhn, Gustav. 2018. The magic hand: plasticity of mental hand representation. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71(11), pp. 2314-2324. ISSN 1747-0218 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Internal spatial body configurations are crucial to successfully interact with the environment and to experience our body as a three dimensional volumetric entity. These representations are highly malleable and are modulated by a multitude of afferent and motor information. Despite some studies reporting the impact of sensory and motor modulation on body representations, the long-term relationship between sensory information and mental representation of own body parts is still unclear. We investigated hand representation in a group of expert sleight of hand magicians and in a group of age matched adults naïve to magic (controls). Participants were asked to localise landmarks of their fingers when their hand position was congruent with the mental representation (Experiment 1) and when proprioceptive information was ‘misleading’ (Experiment 2). Magicians outperformed controls in both experiments, suggesting that extensive training in sleight of hand has a profound effect in refining hand representation. Moreover, the impact of training seems to have a high body-part specificity, with a maximum impact for those body sections used more prominently during the training. Interestingly, it seems that sleight of hand training can lead to a specific improvement of hand mental representation, which relies less on proprioceptive information.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Body representation, somatosensory, proprioceptive, body schema, body image

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Psychology > Centre for Cognition, Computation and Culture (CCCC)


28 September 2017Accepted
1 January 2018Published Online
1 November 2018Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

10 Oct 2017 10:13

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:40

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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