Comedian Robin Ince lends a hand to The Selective Attention and Awareness Laboratory

Posted on Friday 4th April 2014

Robin Ince at SAALScience enthusiast and stand-up comedian Robin Ince visited The Selective Attention and Awareness Laboratory (SAAL) in the School of Psychology on 27 March to take part in a number of exciting experiments designed to investigate anomalous experiences and hallucinations. 

Robin, an award-winning comedian, actor, writer and co-presenter of popular Radio 4 show The Infinite Monkey Cage with Professor Brian Cox, has a profound interest in science and often uses the theme in his shows.

During his visit Robin took part in research conducted at SAAL, which is directed by Dr Jason Braithwaite, and heard about the laboratory’s work from PhD student Hayley Dewe and Research Fellow Dr Chie Takahashi, who is funded by The Leverhulme Trust.

Robin participated in the Rubber Hand Illusion, which makes observers feel as though a prosthetic rubber hand is attached to their bodies, and a new Real Hand Illusion (developed in the laboratory), which simulates giving blood and investigates emotional reactivity to perceived physical threats. 

He also took part in tasks designed to assess cortical hyperexcitability, which is associated with hallucinatory experiences. 

For all experiments Robin completed measures designed to reveal his predisposition to anomalous experiences while researchers monitored objective factors such as skin conductance responses and body temperature.

Dr Braithwaite said: "I'm absolutely delighted that Robin took the time from his busy schedule and tour to come in and have a go at these experiments.

"He spent time getting to know the team, our research, and clearly has a passion for science. We hope he will pop back in the future to see how things are developing."      

I miss my rubber hand already.

Robin said: "I am fascinated by the illusions and delusions that seem to be created by the mind to assist us in getting through the world as it is or may be. So I love coming to places like Birmingham University's Psychology Department and finding out if I will start to feel a rubber hand is my mind and have a quick check on my likelihood of believing I'll have an out of body experience. I miss my rubber hand already.  

"How can we understand the world until we understand how we see the world?"