Mind vs. body? Dualist beliefs linked with less concern for healthy behaviors

July 25, 2012, Association for Psychological Science

(Medical Xpress) -- Many people, whether they know it or not, are philosophical dualists. That is, they believe that the brain and the mind are two separate entities. Despite the fact dualist beliefs are found in virtually all human cultures, surprisingly little is known about the impact of these beliefs on how we think and behave in everyday life.

But a new forthcoming in , a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that espousing a dualist philosophy can have important real-life .

Across five related studies, researchers Matthias Forstmann, Pascal Burgmer, and Thomas Mussweiler of the University of Cologne, Germany, found that people primed with dualist beliefs had more reckless attitudes toward health and exercise, and also preferred (and ate) a less than those who were primed with physicalist beliefs.

Furthermore, they found that the relationship also worked in the other direction. People who were primed with – such as pictures of unhealthy food – reported a stronger dualistic belief than participants who were primed with healthy behaviors.

Overall, the findings from the five studies provide converging evidence demonstrating that mind-body dualism has a noticeable impact on people’s health-related attitudes and behaviors. Specifically, these findings suggest that dualistic beliefs decrease the likelihood of engaging in healthy behavior.

These findings support the researchers’ original hypothesis that the more people perceive their minds and bodies to be distinct entities, the less likely they will be to engage in behaviors that protect their bodies. Bodies are ultimately viewed as a disposable vessel that helps the mind interact with the physical world.

Evidence of a bidirectional relationship further suggests that metaphysical beliefs, such as beliefs in mind-body dualism, may serve as cognitive tools for coping with threatening or harmful situations.

The fact that the simple priming procedures used in the studies had an immediate impact on health-related attitudes and behavior suggests that these procedures may eventually have profound implications for real-life problems. Interventions that reduce dualistic beliefs through priming could be one way to help promote healthier – or less self-damaging – behaviors in at-risk populations.

Explore further: Death anxiety increases atheists' unconscious belief in God

Related Stories

Death anxiety increases atheists' unconscious belief in God

April 2, 2012
New research suggests that when non-religious people think about their own death they become more consciously skeptical about religion, but unconsciously grow more receptive to religious belief.

Sexism and gender inequality

October 28, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Individual beliefs don’t stay confined to the person who has them; they can affect how a society functions. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological ...

Mind over matter: Patients' perceptions of illness make a difference

January 25, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Whenever we fall ill, there are many different factors that come together to influence the course of our illness. Additional medical conditions, stress levels, and social support all have an impact on ...

Recommended for you

People with prosthetic arms less affected by common illusion

January 22, 2018
People with prosthetic arms or hands do not experience the "size-weight illusion" as strongly as other people, new research shows.

Study of learning and memory problems in OCD helps young people unlock potential at school

January 22, 2018
Adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have widespread learning and memory problems, according to research published today. The findings have already been used to assist adolescents with OCD obtain the help ...

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

JRDarby
not rated yet Jul 25, 2012
"...Despite the fact dualist beliefs are found in virtually all human cultures..."

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Dualism has existed in many forms for many centuries, but mind/body dualism, especially in this context, is primarily a post-Christian meme.
Tausch
not rated yet Jul 30, 2012
Hmmm.
Stephen Hawking?
What do you make of this?

Ah ha. Yes. I agree. I see.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.