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Can heightened self-awareness help you read minds?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify the emotions of oneself and others. Self-awareness is a critical step in achieving this level of intellect. When you recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior, you become more aware of the same emotional cues in others. Emerging research has taken this idea to a new level, and finds that tuning into your own body may allow you to read other people’s minds.

Punit Shah is a professor of psychology at Anglia Ruskin University who led the study. The main goal of the project was to determine if concentrating on oneself helps to better interpret what someone else is feeling. Shah suggested that when people notice their own heartbeat, it makes them more aware of the emotional states of others.

“If a male colleague is aggressive towards a woman on public transport, your body processes this by increasing your heart rate, perhaps making you feel awkward and anxious, enabling you to understand she is embarrassed. If you do not feel your heart rate increase, it may reduce your ability to understand that situation and respond appropriately,” explained Shah.

The research team asked participants of the study to focus on their heartbeats, and count their pulses without the use of equipment. Their level of accuracy was noted. Next, the individuals were shown short films of social interactions during which they were asked a series of questions. Some of the questions were pertaining to the thoughts and feelings of the characters, while others were irrelevant questions about the weather and backdrop.

The results of the study showed that the individuals who were more conscious of their heart rate seemed to also have a heightened state of perception. Those participants who most accurately reported their heart rate expressed much more insight in their responses regarding the emotions and feelings of the characters. The conclusion of this study suggests that teaching people to recognize their heart patterns may have some incredible benefits, such as helping people learn to deal with emotional problems.

“This may have a beneficial impact on daily functioning, where an improved ability to interpret the internal states of oneself and others could result in more accurate mind reading and improve someone’s social interactions and overall quality of life,” said Shah.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Source: Anglia Ruskin University

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