Explorations in Perception: the Cutaneous Rabbit Illusion
Mentor:Diana Linden, Professor of Cognitive Science, Occidental College
The cutaneous rabbit illusion occurs when several rapid tactile stimuli are presented on the arm near the wrist and subsequently near the elbow but they are perceived in a continuous fashion up the arm, as if a rabbit were hopping along it. There has been a divergence in the literature, with some authors (Kilgard & Merzenich, 1995) claiming that attention determines this illusion, whereas others (Eimer et al., 2005) argue the contrary. In this study we wanted to determine whether a distraction given in the form of an audio story (lack of attention) would affect the salience of this illusion. If attention is important for the occurrence of the illusion, then the illusion would not occur when distracted. We have programmed solenoids to deliver three sequences of taps in both distracted and non-distracted conditions. In the tap sequence the middle location (L2) is stimulated, and in both the rabbit and motion sequences only the lower and upper positions are stimulated in order to give an illusion of a tap at L2. We recorded the percentage of times participants reported a tap at the middle location on the arm (L2). More reports of L2 in the rabbit trials than in the motion control trials in both the distracted and non-distracted conditions, would indicate the presence of the illusion regardless of attentional processes. In fact, the results revealed that hearing a story did not affect the salience of the illusion, thus we can attribute the cause of the illusion to other factors in perceptual processing.