Listening to your heart. How interoception shapes emotion experience and intuitive decision making

Psychol Sci. 2010 Dec;21(12):1835-44. doi: 10.1177/0956797610389191. Epub 2010 Nov 24.


Theories proposing that how one thinks and feels is influenced by feedback from the body remain controversial. A central but untested prediction of many of these proposals is that how well individuals can perceive subtle bodily changes (interoception) determines the strength of the relationship between bodily reactions and cognitive-affective processing. In Study 1, we demonstrated that the more accurately participants could track their heartbeat, the stronger the observed link between their heart rate reactions and their subjective arousal (but not valence) ratings of emotional images. In Study 2, we found that increasing interoception ability either helped or hindered adaptive intuitive decision making, depending on whether the anticipatory bodily signals generated favored advantageous or disadvantageous choices. These findings identify both the generation and the perception of bodily responses as pivotal sources of variability in emotion experience and intuition, and offer strong supporting evidence for bodily feedback theories, suggesting that cognitive-affective processing does in significant part relate to "following the heart."

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Biofeedback, Psychology / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Intuition / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation