iScience (May 2022)

Reduced ownership over a virtual body modulates dishonesty

  • Marina Scattolin,
  • Maria Serena Panasiti,
  • Riccardo Villa,
  • Salvatore Maria Aglioti

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 25, no. 5
p. 104320


Read online

Summary: Although studies suggest that even higher-order functions can be embodied, whether body awareness may bias moral decisions toward (dis)honesty remains underinvestigated. Here, we tested if the Sense of body Ownership (SoO) and the magnitude of monetary rewards influence the tendency to act immorally. Through a virtual body, participants played a card game in which they could lie to others to steal high or low amounts of money. To manipulate SoO, the virtual body was seen and controlled from a first-person perspective, with hands attached or detached, or from a third-person perspective. In third-person perspective, SoO was significantly reduced and more egoistic lies were produced in high reward conditions. Thus, SoO reduction and high monetary reward facilitate dishonest behavior, likely by separating the self from the dishonest actions performed through the disowned body. Because most future interactions will likely occur in a digital metaverse, our results may have crucial societal impact.