This Illusion Starts With Scientists Creepily Stroking Your Tongue

Illustration for article titled This Illusion Starts With Scientists Creepily Stroking Your Tongue

Want someone to pet your tongue? No? How about if they find a way to pet someone else's tongue and make you feel the touch on your own?


Scientists, in an inspired burst of creepiness, have found a way to make certain subjects hallucinate a finger stroking their tongue. The horror started with the scientists in question asking the subjects to stick their tongue into a slot in a box. The box was mirrored, and allowed another tongue - made of rubber - to be inserted into the same box. The subjects could only see the rubber tongue. The scientists stroked both tongues with a wet q-tip. After some time, the subjects got a sense of "ownership" of the false tongue. They felt like it was connected to their body.

They felt this so strongly that forty percent of them continued feeling a stranger stroking their tongue even when the stranger was no longer stroking their tongue. As long as they saw that stranger petting a rubber tongue, they felt a touch.

The stranger then started doing even creepier things to the fake tongue. First of all, the false tongue got hit with a laser. People felt a sense of heat on their own tongues as they watched the scientists slowly fry the rubber one. The scientists then moved on to the tasting portion of the experiment. When the subjects saw a q-tip dipped in lemon juice and applied to the rubber tongue, the q-tip on their own tongue felt sour. Their q-tip had only been dipped in water, but as long as they knew the sour taste was coming, they hallucinated the taste of it.

Then, just for a laugh, the scientists put aside the q-tips and the lasers and pulled out a pair of scissors. The subjects, at that point, decided to disengage their tongue with the box, the experiment, and the scientist - proving that mindless obedience to authority has its limits.

Top Image: Jennifer Leigh

[Via The Butcher's Tongue Illusion, The New Yorker.]



Dr Emilio Lizardo

I think my participation in this study would end when the researcher said "stick your tongue in this box..."

Too many ways that can go wrong.