Cognitive Science: An Introduction/Non-Emotion Feelings

In other sections we describe perceptions (how we interpret the outside world), interoceptions (how we interpret our own body), conceptual thoughts, and emotions. But there are other things we feel that are harder to classify, but no less real.

Bodily OwnershipEdit

You have a body, and you feel that it is yours, and you believe that it is yours. This seems unremarkable until one considers disorders that throw these feelings and beliefs out of whack.

You are not aware of your body directly. Instead, you have a body schema, a representation of your body in your mind that usually matches up pretty well with your actual, physical body. But the body schema can be tricked in various ways. Take, for example, the rubber hand illusion. To make it happen, you have someone put both hands on a table, but one of the hands is covered up so they can't see it. Instead, they can see a rubber hand, near where there real hand is. The experimenter strokes both the rubber hand and the hidden hand in the same way. What happens is that the person often feels that the rubber hand is their own, even though they know, conceptually, that it is not. While the illusion is in place, if you threaten the rubber hand with a knife, the person will react as though a part of their body is being threatened. You can watch videos of this online. What's happening here is that the body schema is affected by perception. The person sees a hand there, and what they feel (the paintbrush) corresponds to what they are seeing. So the body schema "moves" into the rubber hand.

A similar effect happens with certain prostheses. If a blind person uses a cane, they will often feel as though the cane is a part of their body. When the cane is struck, they "sense" the striking in the cane, not in their hand, where their nerve endings actually are. Here, perhaps, their body schema is extending into the cane.

Sometimes, after a hand is amputated, the person will feel that the hand is still there. This is known as phantom limb. The person knows the hand is gone, but they feel it is there, and can tell you if it is in pain, and what position it's in. Here, the hand part of the body schema is still there after the hand it represents is gone.

Patients with somatoparaphrenia feel that some part of their body, say, a leg, isn't theirs. This feeling is accompanied by a belief that it's not theirs (which makes it different from the rubber hand illusion). This belief is maintained even though they can see that their leg is attached, and can feel touch and pain in the alien leg. If the patient has xenomelia, they want the alien leg amputated.

These disorders show that that there is a dissociation between sensory and interoceptive feelings, such as pain and proprioception, the feeling of ownership, and the belief in ownership.[1]

Deja VuEdit


When you look at someone you know, you get a feeling of familiarity. You might think that this is the same thing as perceptually recognizing who they are, but there are disorders people can have that show this isn't the case. In Capcras syndrome, for example, people can see that someone close to them looks identical, but believe that the person is an imposter. The reason for this is that they lost their sense of familiarity.

The opposite disorder is the Fregoli delusion, where people have feelings of familiarity even to people they've never met. These patients believe that strangers are familiar persons wearing disguises.[1]

These two disorders make it clear that the feeling of familiarity can be dissociated from merel perceptual recognition.

Noetic FeelingsEdit

Noetic feelings relate to knowing. When you feel you know or don't know something, that's a noetic feeling. Examples of this include the tip-of-your-tongue feeling, when you feel you know the name of something, even though you cannot retrieve it.[1]

  1. a b c de Vignemont, F. (2020). Bodily feelings: Presence, agency, and ownership. In U. Kriegel (Ed.) (2020). The Oxford handbook of the philosophy of consciousness. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. (pp. 81--100).