The relationship between interoception and processing of others’ interoceptive expressions

Lara Carr

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Interoception refers to the perception of, attention to, and propensity to use internal bodily signals. Whilst previous research has investigated the processing of these signals in one’s own body, little research has investigated processing of these states in others, beyond the emotional domain. Where emotion is concerned, evidence suggests that an understanding of one's own emotions is central to the processing of others’ emotions. Given the close relationship between emotional and interoceptive experience, it is likely that the processing of one's own interoceptive states is also associated with the processing of others’ interoceptive expressions. This thesis used novel photographic stimuli to investigate the processing of others’ interoceptive expressions and its relationship with one's own self-reported interoceptive abilities, in adolescence and throughout adulthood. Separate studies assessed recognition accuracy, the propensity to interpret others’ expressions as interoceptive, and attention to and memory for others’ interoceptive expressions. Although self-reported interoceptive abilities were related to the propensity to interpret expressions as interoceptive, they were unrelated to the accurate recognition of, attention to, and memory for others’ interoceptive expressions. Results, therefore, partially supported the assertion that the processing of interoceptive expressions is related to the processing of one’s own interoceptive states. This thesis also presents evidence of altered interoceptive and emotional processing in children with Medically Unexplained Symptoms and Tourette syndrome, making future research on potentially related processes, including the processing of others’ interoceptive expressions, in these groups a priority. Overall, this thesis presents the first investigation into the processing of others’ interoceptive expressions and its relationship with one’s own interoceptive abilities. The current findings have implications for social relationships and the ability to provide care to others, and pave the way for future research aiming to reduce the potential impact of interoceptive atypicalities on social cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Brewer, Rebecca, Supervisor
  • Watling, Dawn, Supervisor
Award date1 Feb 2023
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023

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