Conceptual processing is referenced to the experienced location of the self, not to the location of the physical body
We tested whether an experimentally induced change in the experienced location of the self by means of the Full Body Illusion (FBI) would impact high-level cognitive processing. In an implicit association task, participants saw a landscape where words, conveying spatial ("Near", "Far") or social ("Us", "Them") semantic distance appeared either in a proximal or distal position. Words' "semantic" distance was congruent or incongruent to the words' spatial position. Participants were asked to classify words' spatial position. Implicit association judgements were intermingled with sessions of visuo-tactile stimulation, during which participants were touched on their back, while viewing an avatar in the distal position being touched either synchronously or asynchronously. In a control experiment, participants performed the same task while observing a neutral object being touched, as a control. When subjects self-identified with the avatar presented at the distal position, the facilitation effect of the words' spatial-semantic congruency disappeared. The congruency effect did not disappear in case of asynchronous stimulation as well as in the control experiment with the object, where no change in self identification was observed. These results demonstrate that conceptual processing is not referenced to the location of the physical body, but to the experienced location of the self. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.