Scientists in California found that meditation improves bodily awareness and the connection between physiological and emotional reactions, crucial for intuition

I know I am a bit late with reporting this because the article appeared way back in the October issue of the New Scientist. But here it is now:  in a box accompanying the article by David Robson entitled Your clever body: Thinking from head to toe I found this interesting piece (read to the very end):

We often use metaphors involving the body to describe the process of intuition – we talk about going with our ‘gut instincs’ or ‘follow our hearts’. Perhaps we should take these phrases more literally. Barnaby Dunn at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK, and colleagues have found that people who take notice of subtle physiological changes tend to be more intuitive.

The team first asked volunteers to sit quietly and try to count out their heartbeats without feeling for their pulse. All the while, an ECG machine took an accurate measurement. Comparing these two resuls gives a good indication of a person’s ‘interoception’, their ability to read their body’s internal signals. Then, to test their intuition, the participants played a simple computer game. The computer offered them four decks of cards and on each round they had to guess which deck would present a card of a certain colour. Unbeknownst to the players, the set-up was rigged – two of the decks were always slightly more liketo to have the winning cards than the other two. The results were surprising. Those with the best interoception tended to be either the best, or the worst, at this card game. Those who were bad at reading their body’s signals came right in the middle (Psychological Science, vol 21, p 1832).

Why could this be? Dunn suspects it is down to the way we porcess our emotions. In another experiment, he asked the same subjects to rate their emotional reactions as they looked at a series of emotive pictures. The better they were at interoception, the more these rationgs correlated with physiological change, such as a shift in heart rate. Dunn suggests that having a hunch might create a flicker of excitement or interest that is reflected in subtle changes in physiology. Since people with good interoception are more sensitive to these signals, their perception of the hunch is stronger, making it more likely that they will act on it. “Their bodies are driving what they decide”, he says. That doesn’t mean the hunch is right, though – which would explain why these people did the best, and the worst, of the group.

If you would like to tap into the signals that your subconscious mind is sending your body, you might want to take up meditation. Jocelyn Sze and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that meditating improves bodily awareness and results in the same kind of link between physiological and emotional reactions that Dunn found to be crucial for intuition (Emotion, vol 10, p 803).

Found by Punya in New Scientist 15 october 2011 – Your clever body: Thinking from head to toe