Sharing an experience with another person may change the perception we have of our own self, such as the recognition of our own face, according to a new study.
Published online in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, this study has for the first time shown that the image a person holds of his/her own face can actually change through shared experiences with other people's faces.
"As a result of shared experiences, we tend to perceive other people as being more similar to us, and this applies also to the recognition of our own face. This process may be at the root of constructing a self-identity in a social context," said Dr Manos Tsakiris, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London.
The study reveals that recognition of people's own face is not as consistent as they might think.
During the study, the participants' ability to recognise their own face changed when they watched the face of another person being touched at the same time as their own face was touched, as though they were looking in a mirror.
When the researchers asked the subjects to recognize a picture of their own face, the picture that people chose included features of the other person they had previously seen. This did not happen when the two faces were touched out of synchrony.
Tsakiris said that the findings imply that shared experiences may influence the way we perceive ourselves and possibly the way we interact with others.
"If I feel that you are more like me, I might then behave to you in a different way. We now test whether shared experiences can make us stereotype others less, or change our attitudes towards people of different social groups, race or gender," Tsakiris said.
Research on self-recognition may also have a significant impact in understanding and helping people with appearance-related concerns.
Shared sensory experiences may ease such concerns and provide insights into the mechanisms that cause them.