More of myself: Manipulating interoceptive awareness by heightened attention to bodily and narrative aspects of the self

Consciousness and Cognition 22 (4):1231-1238 (2013)
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Psychology distinguishes between a bodily and a narrative self. Within neuroscience, models of the bodily self are based on exteroceptive sensorimotor processes or on the integration of interoceptive sensations. Recent research has revealed interactions between interoceptive and exteroceptive processing of self-related information, for example that mirror self-observation can improve interoceptive awareness. Using heartbeat perception, we measured the effect on interoceptive awareness of two experimental manipulations, designed to heighten attention to bodily and narrative aspects of the self. Participants gazed at a photograph of their own face or at self-relevant words. In both experimental conditions interoceptive awareness was significantly increased, compared to baseline. Results show that attention to narrative aspects of self, previously regarded as relying on higher-order processes, has an effect similar to self-face stimuli in improving interoceptive awareness. Our findings extend the previously observed interaction between the bodily self and interoception to more abstract amodal representations of the self



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Harry Farmer
University College London