Interoceptive sensitivity predicts sensitivity to the emotions of others

Cogn Emot. 2014;28(8):1435-48. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2014.888988. Epub 2014 Feb 21.


Some theories of emotion emphasise a close relationship between interoception and subjective experiences of emotion. In this study, we used facial expressions to examine whether interoceptive sensibility modulated emotional experience in a social context. Interoceptive sensibility was measured using the heartbeat detection task. To estimate individual emotional sensitivity, we made morphed photos that ranged between a neutral and an emotional facial expression (i.e., anger, sadness, disgust and happy). Recognition rates of particular emotions from these photos were calculated and considered as emotional sensitivity thresholds. Our results indicate that participants with accurate interoceptive awareness are sensitive to the emotions of others, especially for expressions of sadness and happy. We also found that false responses to sad faces were closely related with an individual's degree of social anxiety. These results suggest that interoceptive awareness modulates the intensity of the subjective experience of emotion and affects individual traits related to emotion processing.

Keywords: Anxiety; Emotion; Facial expression; Interoception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Emotions*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interoception / physiology*
  • Male
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Social Perception*
  • Young Adult