Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Reality


Recently, the layering of augmented reality information on top of smartphone applications has created unprecedented user engagement and popularity. One augmented reality-based entertainment application, Pokémon Go (Pokémon Company, Tokyo, Japan) has become the most rapidly downloaded in history. This technology holds tremendous promise to promote ambulatory activity. However, there exists the obvious potential for distraction-related morbidity. We report two cases, presenting simultaneously to our trauma center, with injuries sustained secondary to gameplay with this augmented reality-based application.

Concepts: Reality, Physical trauma


Cartoon characters are omnipresent in popular media. While few studies have scientifically investigated their processing, in computer graphics, efforts are made to increase realism. Yet, close approximations of reality have been suggested to evoke sometimes a feeling of eeriness, the “uncanny valley” effect. Here, we used high-density electroencephalography to investigate brain responses to professionally stylized happy, angry, and neutral character faces. We employed six face-stylization levels varying from abstract to realistic and investigated the N170, early posterior negativity (EPN), and late positive potential (LPP) event-related components. The face-specific N170 showed a u-shaped modulation, with stronger reactions towards both most abstract and most realistic compared to medium-stylized faces. For abstract faces, N170 was generated more occipitally than for real faces, implying stronger reliance on structural processing. Although emotional faces elicited highest amplitudes on both N170 and EPN, on the N170 realism and expression interacted. Finally, LPP increased linearly with face realism, reflecting activity increase in visual and parietal cortex for more realistic faces. Results reveal differential effects of face stylization on distinct face processing stages and suggest a perceptual basis to the uncanny valley hypothesis. They are discussed in relation to face perception, media design, and computer graphics.

Concepts: Cerebrum, Computer graphics, Emotion, Face perception, Reality, Event-related potential, Uncanny valley, Computer animation


Prior studies have shown that spatial cognition is influenced by stress prior to task. The current study investigated the effects of real-time acute stress on allocentric and egocentric spatial processing. A virtual reality-based spatial reference rule learning (SRRL) task was designed in which participants were instructed to make a location selection by walking to one of three poles situated around a tower. A selection was reinforced by either an egocentric spatial reference rule (leftmost or rightmost pole relative to participant) or an allocentric spatial reference rule (nearest or farthest pole relative to the tower). In Experiment 1, 32 participants (16 males, 16 females; aged from 18 to 27) performed a SRRL task in a normal virtual reality environment (VRE). The hit rates and rule acquisition revealed no difference between allocentric and egocentric spatial reference rule learning. In Experiment 2, 64 participants (32 males, 34 females; aged from 19 to 30) performed the SRRL task in both a low-stress VRE (a mini virtual arena) and a high-stress VRE (mini virtual arena with a fire disaster). Allocentric references facilitated learning in the high-stressful VRE. The results suggested that acute stress facilitate allocentric spatial processing.

Concepts: Participation, Classical mechanics, Reality, Virtual reality, Power of two


Immersive virtual reality can be used to visually substitute a person’s real body by a life-sized virtual body (VB) that is seen from first person perspective. Using real-time motion capture the VB can be programmed to move synchronously with the real body (visuomotor synchrony), and also virtual objects seen to strike the VB can be felt through corresponding vibrotactile stimulation on the actual body (visuotactile synchrony). This setup typically gives rise to a strong perceptual illusion of ownership over the VB. When the viewpoint is lifted up and out of the VB so that it is seen below this may result in an out-of-body experience (OBE). In a two-factor between-groups experiment with 16 female participants per group we tested how fear of death might be influenced by two different methods for producing an OBE. In an initial embodiment phase where both groups experienced the same multisensory stimuli there was a strong feeling of body ownership. Then the viewpoint was lifted up and behind the VB. In the experimental group once the viewpoint was out of the VB there was no further connection with it (no visuomotor or visuotactile synchrony). In a control condition, although the viewpoint was in the identical place as in the experimental group, visuomotor and visuotactile synchrony continued. While both groups reported high scores on a question about their OBE illusion, the experimental group had a greater feeling of disownership towards the VB below compared to the control group, in line with previous findings. Fear of death in the experimental group was found to be lower than in the control group. This is in line with previous reports that naturally occurring OBEs are often associated with enhanced belief in life after death.

Concepts: Causality, Science, Perception, Empiricism, Experiment, Reality, Virtual reality, Grammatical person


Recent studies have shown that playing prosocial video games leads to greater subsequent prosocial behavior in the real world. However, immersive virtual reality allows people to occupy avatars that are different from them in a perceptually realistic manner. We examine how occupying an avatar with the superhero ability to fly increases helping behavior.

Concepts: Simulated reality, Reality, Virtual reality, The Real World, Avatar, MTV, Jamie Chung


An illusory sensation of ownership over a surrogate limb or whole body can be induced through specific forms of multisensory stimulation, such as synchronous visuotactile tapping on the hidden real and visible rubber hand in the rubber hand illusion. Such methods have been used to induce ownership over a manikin and a virtual body that substitute the real body, as seen from first-person perspective, through a head-mounted display. However, the perceptual and behavioral consequences of such transformed body ownership have hardly been explored. In Exp. 1, immersive virtual reality was used to embody 30 adults as a 4-y-old child (condition C), and as an adult body scaled to the same height as the child (condition A), experienced from the first-person perspective, and with virtual and real body movements synchronized. The result was a strong body-ownership illusion equally for C and A. Moreover there was an overestimation of the sizes of objects compared with a nonembodied baseline, which was significantly greater for C compared with A. An implicit association test showed that C resulted in significantly faster reaction times for the classification of self with child-like compared with adult-like attributes. Exp. 2 with an additional 16 participants extinguished the ownership illusion by using visuomotor asynchrony, with all else equal. The size-estimation and implicit association test differences between C and A were also extinguished. We conclude that there are perceptual and probably behavioral correlates of body-ownership illusions that occur as a function of the type of body in which embodiment occurs.

Concepts: Psychology, Perception, Reality, Implicit Association Test, Virtual reality, Result, Illusion, Attitude


A recent large Canadian survey permits us to compare face-to-face (‘real-life’) and on-line social networks as sources of subjective well-being. The sample of 5,000 is drawn randomly from an on-line pool of respondents, a group well placed to have and value on-line friendships. We find three key results. First, the number of real-life friends is positively correlated with subjective well-being (SWB) even after controlling for income, demographic variables and personality differences. Doubling the number of friends in real life has an equivalent effect on well-being as a 50% increase in income. Second, the size of online networks is largely uncorrelated with subjective well-being. Third, we find that real-life friends are much more important for people who are single, divorced, separated or widowed than they are for people who are married or living with a partner. Findings from large international surveys (the European Social Surveys 2002-2008) are used to confirm the importance of real-life social networks to SWB; they also indicate a significantly smaller value of social networks to married or partnered couples.

Concepts: Marriage, Sociology, Reality, Real life, Meatspace, Face time, Community building, Internet slang


In two studies, 5- and 6-year-old children were questioned about the status of the protagonist embedded in three different types of stories. In realistic stories that only included ordinary events, all children, irrespective of family background and schooling, claimed that the protagonist was a real person. In religious stories that included ordinarily impossible events brought about by divine intervention, claims about the status of the protagonist varied sharply with exposure to religion. Children who went to church or were enrolled in a parochial school, or both, judged the protagonist in religious stories to be a real person, whereas secular children with no such exposure to religion judged the protagonist in religious stories to be fictional. Children’s upbringing was also related to their judgment about the protagonist in fantastical stories that included ordinarily impossible events whether brought about by magic (Study 1) or without reference to magic (Study 2). Secular children were more likely than religious children to judge the protagonist in such fantastical stories to be fictional. The results suggest that exposure to religious ideas has a powerful impact on children’s differentiation between reality and fiction, not just for religious stories but also for fantastical stories.

Concepts: Truth, Philosophy, Religion, Reality, Character, Judgment, Short story, Secularity


All motile organisms use spatially distributed chemical features of their surroundings to guide their behaviors, but the neural mechanisms underlying such behaviors in mammals have been difficult to study, largely due to the technical challenges of controlling chemical concentrations in space and time during behavioral experiments. To overcome these challenges, we introduce a system to control and maintain an olfactory virtual landscape. This system uses rapid flow controllers and an online predictive algorithm to deliver precise odorant distributions to head-fixed mice as they explore a virtual environment. We establish an odor-guided virtual navigation behavior that engages hippocampal CA1 “place cells” that exhibit similar properties to those previously reported for real and visual virtual environments, demonstrating that navigation based on different sensory modalities recruits a similar cognitive map. This method opens new possibilities for studying the neural mechanisms of olfactory-driven behaviors, multisensory integration, innate valence, and low-dimensional sensory-spatial processing.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Hippocampus, Virtual, Behavior, Behaviorism, Reality, Virtual reality


As breaking news unfolds people increasingly rely on social media to stay abreast of the latest updates. The use of social media in such situations comes with the caveat that new information being released piecemeal may encourage rumours, many of which remain unverified long after their point of release. Little is known, however, about the dynamics of the life cycle of a social media rumour. In this paper we present a methodology that has enabled us to collect, identify and annotate a dataset of 330 rumour threads (4,842 tweets) associated with 9 newsworthy events. We analyse this dataset to understand how users spread, support, or deny rumours that are later proven true or false, by distinguishing two levels of status in a rumour life cycle i.e., before and after its veracity status is resolved. The identification of rumours associated with each event, as well as the tweet that resolved each rumour as true or false, was performed by journalist members of the research team who tracked the events in real time. Our study shows that rumours that are ultimately proven true tend to be resolved faster than those that turn out to be false. Whilst one can readily see users denying rumours once they have been debunked, users appear to be less capable of distinguishing true from false rumours when their veracity remains in question. In fact, we show that the prevalent tendency for users is to support every unverified rumour. We also analyse the role of different types of users, finding that highly reputable users such as news organisations endeavour to post well-grounded statements, which appear to be certain and accompanied by evidence. Nevertheless, these often prove to be unverified pieces of information that give rise to false rumours. Our study reinforces the need for developing robust machine learning techniques that can provide assistance in real time for assessing the veracity of rumours. The findings of our study provide useful insights for achieving this aim.

Concepts: Epistemology, Machine learning, Fact, Reality, Tendency, Breaking news, Analyze This, Rumor