The Perceived Match Between Observed and Own Bodies, but Not Its Accuracy, Is Influenced by Movement Dynamics and Clothing Cues

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Own-perceived body matching - the ability to match one's own body with an observed body - is a difficult task for both general and clinical populations. Thus far, however, own-perceived body matching has been investigated in situations that are incongruent with how we are used to experience and perceive our body in daily life. In the current study, we aimed to examine own-perceived body matching in a context that more closely resembles real life. More specifically, we investigated the effects of body movement dynamics and clothing cues on own-perceived body matching. We asked participants to match their own body with an externally perceived body that was a 3D-generated avatar based on participants' real bodies, fitted with a computer-generated dress. This perceived body was (1) either static (non-walking avatar) or dynamic (walking avatar), (2) either bigger, smaller, or the same size as participants' own body size, and (3) fitted with a dress with a size either bigger, smaller, or the same as participants' own dress size. Our results suggest that movement dynamics cues did not improve the accuracy of own-perceived body matching, but that confidence about dress fit was higher for dynamic avatars, and that the difference between dynamic and static avatars was dependent on participants' self-esteem. Furthermore, when participants were asked to rate the observed body in reference to how they wanted to represent themselves to others, dynamic avatars were rated lower than static avatars for the biggest-sized bodies only, possibly reflecting the influence of movement cues on amplifying socio-cultural stereotypes. Finally, while smaller body/dress sizes were systematically rated higher than bigger body/dress sizes for several self-report items, the interplay between body and dress size played an important role in participants' self-report as well. Thus, while our research suggests that movement and garment dynamics, allowing for realistic, concrete situations that are reminiscent of daily life, influence own-body perception, these cues did not lead to an improvement in accuracy. These findings provide important insights for research exploring (own-) body perception and bodily self-awareness, with practical (e.g., development of online avatars) and clinical (e.g., anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder) implications.
avatar, bodily self-awareness, body perception, body representation, movement, self-esteem
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De Coster L, Sánchez-Herrero P, López-Moreno J and Tajadura-Jiménez A (2021) The Perceived Match Between Observed and Own Bodies, but Not Its Accuracy, Is Influenced by Movement Dynamics and Clothing Cues. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 15:701872. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2021.701872