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    A gravitational contribution to perceived body weight

    Ferrè, Elisa Raffaella and Frett, T. and Haggard, P. and Longo, Matthew R. (2019) A gravitational contribution to perceived body weight. Scientific Reports 9 (11448), ISSN 2045-2322.

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    The weightlessness experienced by astronauts has fascinated scientists and the public. On Earth, body weight is given by Newton's laws as mass times gravitational acceleration. That is, an object’s weight is determined by the pull of gravity on it. We hypothesised that perceived body weight is – like actual weight – dependent on the strength of gravity. If so, changes in the experienced strength of gravity should alter the experience of one’s own body weight. We asked participants to estimate the weight of two body parts, their hand or their head, both in normal terrestrial gravity (1g) and during exposure to experimentally altered gravitational fields, 0g and +1.8g during parabolic flight and +1g using a short arm human centrifuge. For both body parts, there was an increase in perceived weight during the experience of hypergravity, and a decrease during the experience of microgravity. Our results show that experimental alterations of gravity produce rapid changes in the perceived weight of specific individual body parts. Traditionally, research has focused on the social factors for weight perception, as in the putative role of mass media in eating disorders. Our results, in contrast, emphasize that the perception of body weight is highly malleable, and shaped by immediate sensory signals.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Matthew Longo
    Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2019 13:55
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:52


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