'Listening to your heart' could improve body image, study finds

February 6, 2013

Women who are more aware of their bodies from within are less likely to think of their bodies principally as objects, according to research published February 6 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Vivien Ainley and Manos Tsakiris from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The authors asked healthy female student volunteers aged between 19 – 26 to concentrate and count their own heartbeats, simply by "listening" to their bodies. Their accuracy in this heartbeat perception test was compared with their degree of self-objectification, based on how significant they considered 10 body attributes to their sense of self. Attributes were both appearance-based, like attractiveness and , and competence-based, such as health and energy levels.

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 image dissatisfaction and clinical disorders which are linked to self-objectification, such as anorexia.

Dr Manos Tsakiris from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway 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 commented that "We believe that our measure of , which assesses how well women are able to listen to their internal signals, will prove a valuable addition to research into self- and women's resulting mental health."

Explore further: Body image not always a drag on women's wellbeing

More information: Ainley V, Tsakiris M (2013) Body Conscious? Interoceptive Awareness, Measured by Heartbeat Perception, Is Negatively Correlated with Self-Objectification. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55568. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055568

Related Stories

People see sexy pictures of women as objects, not people

May 15, 2012

Perfume ads, beer billboards, movie posters: everywhere you look, women's sexualized bodies are on display. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that ...

Recommended for you

The great unknown—risk-taking behaviour in adolescents

January 19, 2017

Adolescents are more likely to ignore information that could prompt them to rethink risky decisions. This may explain why information campaigns on risky behaviors such as drug abuse tend to have only limited success. These ...

Mandarin makes you more musical?

January 18, 2017

Mandarin makes you more musical - and at a much earlier age than previously thought. That's the suggestion of a new study from the University of California San Diego. But hold on there, overachiever parents, don't' rush just ...

Adoptees advantaged by birth language memory

January 18, 2017

Language learning very early on in life can be subconsciously retained even when no conscious knowledge of the early experience remains. The subconscious knowledge can then be tapped to speed up learning of the pronunciation ...

0 comments

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.