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Mirror- and Eye-Gazing: An Integrative Review of Induced Altered and Anomalous Experiences

depersonalization / derealization (dpdr), dissociated identity

Critical review of 44 empirical studies on mirror-gazing and eye-to-eye gazing.

Subjects include healthy individuals and clinical patients (e.g., body dysmorphic disorder, schizophrenia).
Investigates hypnotic mirrored self-misidentification and other related phenomena.

Key Findings:

Mirror-gazing and eye-to-eye gazing can elicit altered states or anomalous experiences.
• Anomalous experiences are primarily visual, bodily, and related to self-identity.
• Psychomanteum experiences often involve multiple senses, such as voices, smells, and touches.

Mechanisms for these experiences are complex, beyond simple perceptual distortions.
Different mechanisms implicated in:
• Derealization (altered perceptions of external reality).
• Depersonalization (altered perceptions of the body).
• Dissociated identity (altered perceptions of identity in mirror or in others).

Historical Context:

• Mirrors have historically been used in spirituality, divination, and psychology.
• They create a unique sense of space, acting as boundaries between reality and fantasy.
• Historical use in ancient Greek rituals, Renaissance art, and modern "magical" practices.
Protocols and Settings:

• Various protocols include psychomanteum, mirror-gazing, and eye-to-eye gazing.
• Differences in visual stimuli, sensory deprivation, and session duration affect experiences.
• Psychomanteum involves a dark room and longer sessions, while mirror-gazing uses shorter sessions with a dimly lit mirror.

Neurophysiological Hypotheses:

• Face processing involves core and extended face networks in the brain.
• Identity-self involves the default mode network (DMN) and medial/orbital frontal areas.
• OBEs are linked to multisensory integration in temporal-parietal areas.
• Self-agency depends on congruence between predicted and actual sensory feedback.
• Sense of reality involves reality-filtering mechanisms in the brain's orbitofrontal cortex.

Hypnosis and Psychopathology:

• Hypnosis can induce mirrored self-misidentification in highly hypnotizable individuals.
• Neuropsychological studies show delusions of mirrored-self misidentification in dementia or Alzheimer's patients.
• Mirror-gazing in schizophrenia and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) patients reveals realistic hallucinations and compulsive behaviors.

Future Research Directions:

• Explore how mirror- and eye-gazing can be used to study a broader range of anomalous experiences (AEs).
• Investigate the neurophysiological correlates and psychological traits linked to these experiences.
• Examine the role of sensory deprivation, explicit and implicit suggestions, and experimenter bias.
• Conduct systematic comparisons of different protocols in controlled settings.
• Use advanced statistical methods and psychometric validation to refine hypotheses.

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