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I can feel my heartbeat: Dancers have increased interoceptive accuracy

Christensen, J.F., Gaigg, S. B. & Calvo-Merino, B. (2017). I can feel my heartbeat: Dancers have increased interoceptive accuracy. Psychophysiology, 55(4), article number e13008. doi: 10.1111/psyp.13008


Interoception is the process of perceiving afferent signals arising from within the body including heart rate (HR), gastric signals, etc. and has been described as a mechanism crucially involved in the creation of self-awareness and selfhood. The heart beat perception task is a tool to measure individuals’ interoceptive accuracy (IAcc). IAcc correlates positively with measures of self-awareness and with attributes including emotional sensitivity, empathy, prosocial behavior, and efficient decision-making.

IAcc is only moderate in the general population. Attempts to identify groups of people who might have higher IAcc due to their specific training (e.g., yoga, meditation) have not been successful. However, a recent study with musicians suggests that those trained in the arts might exhibit high IAcc. Therefore, we here tested IAcc in professional dancers. Twenty professional dancers and 20 female control participants performed 4 intervals of a heartbeat perception task while their actual HR was recorded. Dancers had a higher IAcc, and this effect was independent of their lower heart rates (a proxy measure of physical fitness), counting ability and knowledge about HR. An additional between-group analysis after a median split in the dancer group (based on ‘years of dance experience’) showed that junior dancers’ IAcc differed from controls, and senior dancers’ IAcc was higher than both junior dancers and controls. General art experience correlated positively with IAcc. No correlations were found between IAcc and questionnaire measures of empathy, emotional experience, and alexithymia. These findings are discussed in the context of current theories of interoception and emotion –highlighting the features of arts training that might be related to IAcc.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Christensen, J.F., Gaigg, S. B. & Calvo Merino, B. (2017). I can feel my heartbeat: Dancers have increased interoceptive accuracy. Psychophysiology, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Publisher Keywords: Interoceptive accuracy, dance, heart beat perception, self awareness, consciousness
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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