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Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes?

New Science Museum experiment seeks to build on our current understand of the root causes of social anxiety

by George Wigmore (Senior Communications Officer)

Psychology researchers from City, University of London and Middlesex University are carrying out a live series of experiments at the Science Museum where visitors can explore how our perception of others affects how we view ourselves.

Gathering data on how individuals process, store and apply information about other people and social situations has been shown to be key to understanding mental health issues like anxiety.

‘Is there a link between you and me?’ will seek to build on our current understand of the root causes of social anxiety and the link between our awareness of our own movement and the movement of others.

During the experiment visitors will be asked to complete four tasks. One is a questionnaire and the other three are game style activities including a tactile game, a mental rotation game and a motion prediction game. The tasks are designed to test the connection between how people perceive their own body and the bodies of others. Through taking part visitors will be able to contribute to the latest research on how we understand anxiety and its connection with touch and movement.

Designed by researchers from Middlesex University (Dr Alexander Jones and Dr Jon Silas) in collaboration with Dr Beatriz Calvo-Merino and Professor Tina Forster from City, University of London, the experience will explore the proposition that a high level of attention paid to our own bodies can lead to increased anxiety about one’s physical health. In addition, that brain processes linked to the observation of other people’s movements can cause difficulties in understanding other people.

This research will build on data collected in previous studies by both research teams on the brain processes behind touch and anxiety. ‘Is there a link between you and me?’ brings together different strands of neuroscientific research, with fun talks designed to further our knowledge of the workings of the subconscious.

Speaking about the research event, Dr Calvo-Merino said:

“This new live series of experiments are a great way for people to find out more about how our perceptions of others affects how we view ourselves. By taking part in these four tasks, members of the public will be able to contribute to the latest research on how we understand others, experience empathy and also the general concept of putting yourself into someone else shoes.”

‘Live Science: Is there a link between you and me?’ forms part of the Who am I? gallery. It will run 10 October to 18 November, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Drop in sessions will run throughout the day, except from 13:00 to 14:00. Who am I? is supported by Wellcome.

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