Institut Jean Nicod

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BoSS: Body, Space and the Self

Goup Leader : Frédérique de Vignemont


One may believe that our representation of the world is structured under a binary mode, between the bodily self and the rest of the world. There is, however, a buffer zone in the immediate surrounding of the body, in which boundaries are blurred. What is close to the body is directly relevant for the self and yet already in external space. Peripersonal space is the space in which the world is literally at hand to act on. It is also the space in which the world can become directly threatening. Yet it is only recently that peripersonal space has attracted the attention of cognitive science, and still very little has been done on its philosophical implications. The objective of this research group is to refine its functional characterization and evaluate its consequences in three distinct domains : perception, self-awareness and social cognition.

Philosophy of perception has often been accused to analyse perception exclusively on the model of vision. But it is also guilty of focusing on the perception of far space, neglecting the possibility that peripersonal perception displays different properties, in particular in relation to action and evaluation. What difference, if any, does it make to see objects and events in peripersonal space ? In other words, in what manner does the visual experience of a snake close to my foot differ from the visual experience of the moon in the sky ?

The notion of peripersonal space is also of major significance for the understanding of both self-awareness and social awareness. It actually finds its origin in ethology and social psychology. It was the Swiss biologist Heini Hediger (1955), the director of the Zurich zoo, who first noted that animals start to flee or withdraw at a specific distance from a predator (i.e. flight distance). The study of the rules that govern peripersonal space can thus shed light on our relation to ourselves and to others. How are bodily boundaries, the territory of the self and the territory of others articulated ?

Key words : bodily sensations, bodily ownership, touch, pain, multimodality, sensorimotor theories, emotion, empathy, embodiment.




Statutory Members


  • Morena Castro-Barrenechea
  • Jes Heppler (visiting PhD student from UC Berkeley)
  • Basile Jeannet
  • Simon Spath
  • Jean-Rémi Steinlein


  • Victor Pitron (psychiatre)
  • Adrienne Gouzien (psychiatre)
  • Alessandro Farnè (IMPACT, Lyon)
  • Malika Auvray (ISIR, Paris)
  • Patrick Haggard (UCL, Londres)
  • Giandomenico Iannetti (UCL, Londres)
  • Olivier Massin (Université de Neuchâtel)



  • Bodily plasticity and tool use ANR(PI : Alessandro Farnè)
  • Joint agency ANR (PI : Elisabeth Pacherie)




  • Bodily Awareness. Cambridge Elements in philosophy of mind. Cambridge University Press. Fall 2023
  • Désenchanter le corps. Odile Jacob. MArch 2023
  • The world at our fingertips : a multidisciplinary investigation of Peripersonal space, edited by F. de Vignemont, A. Serino, H.Y. Wong, and A. Farnè, Oxford : Oxford University Press. 2021.
  • Mind the Body : An exploration of bodily self-awareness, by F. de Vignemont, Oxford University Press, 2018. Now in paperback.
  • The Subject’s Matter : Self-consciousness and the body, edited by F. de Vignemont and A. Alsmith. MIT Press, 2017.

Récemment publiés

  • With C. Apelian, & D. Terhune, D.. Hypnotic suggestion versus sensory modulation of bodily awareness. Plos One, 2023
  • La douleur : entre évaluation et action. Revue de métaphysique et de morale, 2023
  • With C. Apelian, & D. Terhune, D. Comparative effects of hypnotic suggestion and imagery on bodily awareness. Consciousness and cognition. 2023
  • Fifty shades of affective colouring of perception. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 2023
  • Looming perception : seeing in a dynamic world. In A. Mroczko-Wasowicz and R. Grusk (eds). Sensory individuals. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2023
  • The phenomenology of bodily ownership. In M. Guillot and M. Garcia-Carpintero, Self Experience : Essays on Inner Awareness. Oxford University Press, 2023
  • Ten problems of body ownership. In Routledge Handbook of the philosophy of the body, edited by A. Alsmith and M. Longo. Routledge, 2022.
  • Peripersonal perception in action. Synthese, 2021
  • A minimal sense of here-ness. Journal of Philosophy. 2021
  • Feeling the world as being here. In The world at our fingertips,, edited by F. de Vignemont, A. Serino, H.Y. Wong, A. Farnè, Oxford : Oxford University Press.
  • With A. Serino, H.Y. Wong, & A. Farnè (2021). Peripersonal space : a special way of representing space. In The world at our fingertips.
  • With V. Pitron, & A. Alsmith. What is the body schema ? In Yochai Ataria, Shogo Tanaka and Shaun Gallagher (eds), Body schema and body image. Oxford University Press. 2021




Crédit photo bannière © Stanley Zimny, Giacometti Figures, CC BY-NC 2.0