Listening to your heart really could be the key to communicating on an emotional level, if this latest scientific study is anything to go by.
Researchers have found that being able to perceive one’s own heartbeat is linked to success in understanding other people’s emotions.
In tests, volunteers were asked to count their heart beats without feeling a pulse to see how aware they were of internal bodily sensations.
Participants were then shown video clips of social interactions which assessed their ability to “read the minds” of the characters.
During the clips they were asked what the characters were feeling and thinking, as well as non-social questions such as ‘what was the weather like?’
Those who had counted their heart beats most accurately were better at answering questions relating to characters’ emotions.
However, there was no association between their “interoceptive ability” to perceive internal sensations and correct answers to non-social questions.
Psychologist Punit Shah, from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, offered an explanation for the findings.
He said: “An example of this could be if your colleague Michael is aggressive towards Sandra on public transport, your body processes this by increasing your heart rate, perhaps making you feel awkward and anxious, enabling you to understand that Sandra is embarrassed.
“If you do not feel your heart rate increase, it may reduce your ability to understand that situation and respond appropriately.
“This seems straightforward yet there is almost no scientific evidence for the link between internal sensations and mind reading.
“Our study shows the psychological processes involved in mind reading, while also highlighting that internal sensations may be linked to a range of psychological abilities and difficulties.”
The research suggests it might be possible to train people to become better mind readers by improving their heart beat perception, he added.
“This may have a beneficial impact on daily functioning, where an improved ability to interpret the internal states of oneself and of others could result in more accurate mind reading, and more generally improve someone’s social interactions and overall quality of life,” said Shah.
The research is reported in the journal Cortex.