Monday, May 13, 2019

Strange-face illusions during eye-to-eye gazing in dyads: specific effects on derealization, depersonalization and dissociative identity

Strange-face illusions during eye-to-eye gazing in dyads: specific effects on derealization, depersonalization and dissociative identity. Giovanni B Caputo. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, April 2019, DOI: 10.1080/15299732.2019.1597807

Abstract: Experimentally induced strange-face illusions can be perceived when two individuals look at each other in the eyes under low illumination for about 10 minutes. This task of subject-other eye-to-eye gazing produces the following perceptions by the subject: (i) mild to huge deformations and color/shape changes of face and facial features; (ii) lifeless, unmoving faces and immaterial presences akin to out-of-body experiences; (iii) pseudo-hallucinations, enlightened ‘idealized’ faces and personalities – rather than the other’s actual face. Dissociative phenomena seem to be involved, whereas the effects of non-pathological dissociation on strange-face illusions have not yet been directly investigated. In the present study, dissociative perceptions and strange-face illusions were measured through self-report questionnaires on a large sample (N = 90) of healthy young individuals. Results of correlation and factor analyses suggest that strange-face illusions can involve, respectively: (i) strange-face illusions correlated to derealization; (ii) strange-face illusions correlated to depersonalization; and (iii) strange-face illusions of identity, which are supposedly correlated to identity dissociation. The findings support the separation between detachment and compartmentalization in dissociative processes. Effects of gender show that strange-face illusions are more frequent in men with respect to women if dyads are composed of individuals of different-gender. Furthermore, drawings of strange-faces, which were perceived by portrait artists in place the others’ faces, allowed a direct illustration of examples of dissociative identities. Findings are discussed in relation to the three-level model of self-referential processing.

Popular version: Locking Eyes with a Monster: Staring at somebody’s face for ten minutes may give you nightmares. Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik. Scientific American blog, May 7, 2019.

"Caputo asked 50 subjects to gaze at their reflected faces in a mirror for a 10-minute session. After less than a minute, most observers began to perceive the “strange-face illusion.” The participants’ descriptions included huge deformations of their own faces; seeing the faces of alive or deceased parents; archetypal faces such as an old woman, child or the portrait of an ancestor; animal faces such as a cat, pig or lion; and even fantastical and monstrous beings. All 50 participants reported feelings of “otherness” when confronted with a face that seemed suddenly unfamiliar. Some felt powerful emotions."

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