Enhanced cardiac perception is associated with benefits in decision-making


  • This study was financed by the German Research Foundation (Project-No: SCHA 308/19-1). We are grateful to Isabella Peres for her help with screening participants and physiological data analysis as well as Heike Heiss for her help with data analysis.

Address reprint requests to: Dr. Natalie S. Werner, Department Psychologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Leopoldstr. 13, 80802 München, Germany. Email: werner@psy.lmu.de


In the present study we provide the first empirical evidence that viscero-sensory feedback from an internal organ is associated with decision-making processes. Participants with accurate vs. poor perception of their heart activity were compared with regard to their performance in the Iowa Gambling Task. During this task, participants have to choose between four card decks. Decks A and B yield high gains and high losses, and if played continuously, result in net loss. In contrast, decks C and D yield small gains and also small losses, but result in net profit if they are selected continuously. Accordingly, participants have to learn to avoid the net loss options in favor of the net gain options. In our study, participants with good cardiac perception chose significantly more of the net gain and fewer of the net loss options. Our findings document the substantial role of visceral feedback in decision-making processes in complex situations.