Listen to your heart: the cultural shaping of interoceptive awareness and accuracy

Author: Chentsova-Dutton, Yulia E.; Dzokoto, Vivian

Description: West African cultural contexts foster higher levels of attention to the bodily signals compared with the European American contexts. Interoception, or the processing of signals from the body, is a key component of emotional reactivity. Interoceptive awareness (i.e., the self-reported tendency to attend to physiological changes) and accuracy (i.e., the ability to accurately detect physiological changes) are distinct aspects of interoception. Does the West African cultural emphasis on interoceptive awareness affect individuals’ abilities to accurately perceive physiological changes in response to emotional stimuli? West African and European American young adults watched a fear-inducing film clip and continuously rated their perception of heart rate changes in response to the clip. Actual heart rates were also recorded continuously. Cross-correlations were calculated between measures of perceived and actual heart rate. Although average levels of coherence between these measures were low across groups, West Africans showed higher levels of interoceptive awareness, but lower levels of interoceptive accuracy than European Americans. These results suggest that cultural scripts of attending to the body may affect coupling between actual and perceived physiological reactivity in the context of emotions. These results have implications for studying cultural shaping of somatic presentation of mood and anxiety disorders.

Subject headings: Africa, Western; African Continental Ancestry Group; Awareness; Cross-Cultural Comparison; Cultural Characteristics; Emotions; European Continental Ancestry Group; Female; Heart Rate; Humans; Male; Motion Pictures; Reproducibility of Results; United States; Young Adult

Publication year: 2014

Journal or book title: Emotion

Volume: 14

Issue: 4

Pages: 666-678

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Serial number: 3384

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