Carrie Arnold’s article, “Inside the Wrong Body” (Scientific American Mind, May/June 2012 edition), is an example of our tremendous differences. She discusses interoception: “awareness of the internal state of one’s body.” Just as we can sense our external environment, we can sense what’s going on in our bodies. Some have better interoception than others do.
Arnold presents a simple test: lie down with your hands at your side and count your heartbeats for a minute then count them by taking your pulse. (Yes, it is possible to feel your body pulsate from your pumped blood.) The smaller the difference as a percentage of your pulse rate, the more awareness you have of your internal body. Less than a 20% difference is very good; greater than 40% is poor.
Why is this important? Increasingly, research is showing interoception affects our emotions and thoughts, often without us being consciously aware of it further retarding the perception of our free will (more). For example, Arnold discusses research showing “those who lack a keen awareness of their internal state also seem to be easily swayed by the opinions of others” especially when it comes to feelings about their bodies; they lack strong internal signals to center them similar to what a heavy base does for a lamp.
Varying interoceptive is similar to the variance among people with regard to sensitivity, situational awareness, empathy, cooperation, apologies and even what is conscious and unconscious to us. In fact, any human attribute will have huge variations among us.
Thus, next time you think someone is purposely upsetting you; perhaps it’s just a personality difference.
- Jamil Zaki, Joshua Ian Davis and Kevin Ochsner research supports “bodily awareness and emotion [being] intimately linked.”
- Beate Herbert and Olga Pollatos research supports “interoceptive awareness [as being] profoundly associated with emotional experience and cognitive functions.”