Cognitive mechanisms underlying body representation. A study on body metrics and body perception

Caggiano, Pietro. 2020. Cognitive mechanisms underlying body representation. A study on body metrics and body perception. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Our body is an essential component of our sense of self; it is not just a means through which we passively experience the world, but we actively use it to act on and interact with the world around us. Because of such ‘intimate’ relationship, it is natural to assume a relatively accurate perception of its size and the relative proportion of its parts. Surprisingly, this seems not to be the case. A growing body of research indicates that the way we represent the size and proportion of our body is dramatically and systematically distorted. The present work is an attempt to understand from where these distortions may arise. Starting from the classic distinction between the body schema and the body image, the focus of this thesis is to investigate the potential interaction between these two components, which has often been implicitly assumed but rarely explicitly assessed. The results obtained, by means of implicit and explicit quantitative measures, highlighted a functional dimension of the body representation. Event-related potential technique has been implemented to evaluate the effect of the object-body part relationship on the modulation of N2-P3 complex in parieto-occipital areas. Electrophysiological data indicated that body parts, coded as effectors, intrinsically carry information about their functional role. Furthermore, by actively manipulating the ‘action’ component in a further study, findings indicated that modification in the body schema were reflected into the more conscious representation of the body image. Lastly, the study on patients with Personal Neglect (PN) showed that these patients represent the size of their contralesional hand, quantitatively and qualitatively, differently from patients without PN and healthy controls. The results provided further insight into the in impact of hemiplegia and personal neglect on the representation of the hands’ size, indicating that bottom-up and top-down processes can differentially impact on the body representation

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Body representation, Body image, Body schema, Body action, Bodily awareness, Posture

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



30 September 2020

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

08 Jun 2021 11:48

Last Modified:

30 Sep 2023 01:26


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