Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Do you use your head or follow your heart?

Fetterman and Robsinon do a piece of work that tries to provide evidence of what we all commonly suppose: that where we physically locate our self (head or heart) predicts aspects of personality such as rationality versus emotionality, interpersonal warmth versus distance, etc. The kind of work derives from the Lakoff and Johnson studies on embodied cognition - how conceptual metaphors guide thought, emotion, and behavior. The experimental subjects were the usual cohort (112 total, 47 female) of college undergraduates seeking psychology laboratory credit, who were asked "Irrespective of what you know about biology, which body part do you more closely associate with your self? (choose one)." A bit more detail is given, but this is apparently how heart and head types were chosen. I'm going to spare you the details of the numbered experiments that are mentioned, and just note the abstract:
The head is thought to be rational and cold, whereas the heart is thought to be emotional and warm. In 8 studies (total N = 725), we pursued the idea that such body metaphors are widely consequential. Study 1 introduced a novel individual difference variable, one asking people to locate the self in the head or the heart. Irrespective of sex differences, head-locators characterized themselves as rational, logical, and interpersonally cold, whereas heart-locators characterized themselves as emotional, feminine, and interpersonally warm (Studies 1–3). Study 4 showed that head-locators were more accurate in answering general knowledge questions and had higher grade point averages, and Study 5 showed that heart-locators were more likely to favor emotional over rational considerations in moral decision making. Study 6 linked self-locations to reactivity phenomena in daily life—for example, heart-locators experienced greater negative emotion on high stressor days. In Study 7, we manipulated attention to the head versus the heart and found that head-pointing facilitated intellectual performance, whereas heart-pointing led to emotional decision making. Study 8 replicated Study 3’s findings with a nearly year-long delay between the self-location and outcome measures. The findings converge on the importance of head–heart metaphors for understanding individual differences in cognition, emotion, and performance.

1 comment:

  1. I can pinpoint exactly where "I am" - directly behind my eyes and in between my ears. It's always been this way for me, and before a couple years ago I had assumed it was like that for everyone.

    Interesting study. =)