Individuals who have a negative perception of their own bodies may be more likely to develop eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. Eating disorders are not only harmful to one's physical health, but they can also affect one's relationships with family and friends.
A new study led by Dr. Manos Tsakiris, from the University of London, examined how humans perceive their own bodies, which could help doctors understand the science behind eating disorders and body dysmorphia — an anxiety condition that causes people to be excessively concerned with a perceived deficit in their physical features.
The study, which appears in the journal Proceedings, reveals that the way humans feel the internal state of their bodies, such as their heartbeat, may influence how they perceive their external physique. Researchers conducted two experiments, first asking participants to count their heartbeats over a span of several minutes. They then used a procedure that attempted to trick individuals into believing that a rubber hand is their own hand.
Researchers concluded that people who were less likely to fall for the illusion were more accurate in monitoring their heartbeat. This is the first study that shows a strong link between an individual's self-image and one's ability to perceive internal activity.
"It seems that a stable perception of the body from the outside, what is known as 'body image,' is partly based on our ability to accurately perceive our body from within, such as our heartbeat," Tsakiris said.