04:58pm Tuesday 17 October 2017

Body-conscious? "Listening to your heart" could improve body image

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Researchers from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway asked healthy female student volunteers aged between 19 – 26, to concentrate hard and count their own heartbeats, simply by “listening” to their bodies. Their accuracy in this heartbeat perception test was compared with their perception of their bodies as objects, measured by scores on the Self-Objectification Questionnaire.

According to the results, the more accurate the women were in detecting their heartbeats, the less they tended to think of their bodies as objects. These findings have important implications for understanding body image dissatisfaction and clinical disorders which are linked to self-objectification, such as anorexia.

Dr Manos Tsakiris from the Department of Psychology said: “People have the remarkable ability to perceive themselves from the perspective of an outside observer. However, there is a danger that some women can develop an excessive tendency to regard their bodies as ‘objects’, while neglecting to value them from within, for their physical competence and health.

“Women who ‘self-objectify’, in this way, are vulnerable to eating disorders and a range of other clinical conditions such as depression and sexual dysfunction.”

Fellow researcher Vivien Ainley from Royal Holloway said: “We believe that our measure of body awareness, which assesses how well women are able to listen to their internal signals, will prove a valuable addition to research into self-objectification and women’s resulting mental health.”

The paper, ‘Body conscious? Interoceptive awareness, measured by heartbeat perception, is negatively correlated with self-objectification,’ is available at: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0055568

Royal Holloway, University of London


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