As a multidisciplinary scientific team of psychologists, philosophists, inventors, and artists, our research institute focuses on understanding 'Body Ownership' (BO) and its underlying questions:
Do you have a body? Are you a Body? And how does this feeling change by context?
Mapping mental and emotional processing behind Body Ownership. Our greatest accomplishment on this path has been the 'Pearl on a String Theory' - a way of understanding different states of how we identify with our body and/or identify our body as our "own".
Better research through empathy. We at the Body Map Institute believe in changing perspectives to get at the heart of things. Solid research is our fundamental basis - empathy is what makes us understand even deeper.
We study Body Ownership in two ways:
Analyzing the existing literature:
Body Ownership is a vibrant field of research and there are many different definitions of the same term – across the globe. Our goal is to propose a theoretical framework that can bridge these gaps and summarize the different states of how we identify with our bodies.
Conducting explorative interviews:
By virtue of the simplicity of its name, 'Body Ownership' is a term that many people can relate to an immediate level. This has sparked our curiosity: In what way can we further understand the many facets of Body Ownership by opening our institute to direct conversations with experts and laypeople alike?
Our research projects focus on:
Body Ownership <-> trauma
Body Ownership <-> empathy
Body Ownership <-> states of bliss and immersion
Body Ownership <-> self-amputation (BIID syndrome), prosthesis, rubber-hand illusion, Virtual Reality, and other body augmentations
Body Ownership <-> out-of-body-experiences (shifting from first to third person perspective)
Body Ownership <-> between affection and abuse
Body Ownership <-> making of culture
The Pearl on a String Theory
Body Ownership is not a yes-or-no-thing; it is a "matter of degree" (F. de Vignemont, 2010). So, how can we visualize the many stages of Body Ownership?
The Body Map Institute's proposed answer to this question is the Pearl on a String Theory: By using the simple allegory of a pearl gliding on a string, researchers can use this theoretical framework to compare different states of Body Dis-Ownership and position their own work in relation to others.
For instance, both ends of the string may represent the feeling of being connected (e.g. states of meditation) or disconnected (e.g. states of dissociation and trauma). States that fall in between these extremes can be located as a pearl-position in relation to others.
To further account for the complexity of Body Ownership, this image of the pearl on a string can be expanded: What if we connect the two ends of the string? Or make a mobile of many linked strings all representing different aspects of Body Ownership.
The Pearl on a String Theory, therefore, strives to describe the myriad of human (body) identities in a clear and simple image.