Cardio-visual integration modulates the subjective perception of affectively neutral stimuli

Ruben Teixeira Azevedo, Vivien Ainley, Emmanouil Tsakiris

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Interoception, which refers to the perception of internal body signals, has been consistently associated with emotional processing and with the sense of self. However, its influence on the subjective appraisal of affectively neutral and body-unrelated stimuli is still largely unknown. Across two experiments we sought to investigate this issue by asking participants to detect changes in the flashing rhythm of a simple stimulus (a circle) that could either be pulsing synchronously with their own heartbeats or following the pattern of another person's heart. While overall task performance did not vary as a function of cardio-visual synchrony, participants were better at identifying trials in which no change occurred when the flashes were synchronous with their own heartbeats. This study adds to the growing body of research indicating that we use our body as a reference point when perceiving the world; and extends this view by focusing on the role that signals coming from inside the body, such as heartbeats, may play in this referencing process. Specifically we show that private interoceptive sensations can be combined with affectively neutral information unrelated to the self to influence the processing of a multisensory percept. Results are discussed in terms of both standard multisensory integration processes and predictive coding theories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-17
Number of pages8
JournalInternational journal of psychophysiology : official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology
Early online date24 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016

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