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07 February 2013

'Listening to your heart' could improve body image

The more accurate women were in detecting their heartbeats, the less they tended to think of their bodies as objects, a new study has found.

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Researchers from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway University asked healthy female student volunteers aged between 19 – 26, to concentrate hard and count their own heartbeats, simply by "listening" to their bodies. Their accuracy in this heartbeat perception test was compared with their perception of their bodies as objects, measured by scores on the Self-Objectification Questionnaire.

According to the results, 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 body 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 from Royal Holloway said: "We believe that our measure of body awareness, which assesses how well women are able to listen to their internal signals, will prove a valuable addition to research into self-objectification and women's resulting mental health."

(EurekAlert, February 2013)

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