Looking into myself: Changes in interoceptive sensitivity during mirror self-observation


  • This study was supported by a European and Social Research Council First Grant RES-061-25-0233, the European Research Council (ERC-2010-StG-262853) under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) (to M.T.), and a Volkswagen Foundation “European Platform for Life Sciences, Mind Sciences and the Humanities” grant for the Body Project (to A.K. and M.T.). We would like to thank the Science Museum, London, for hosting our experiment at the “Who am I?” gallery.

Address correspondence to: Vivien Ainley, Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK. E-mail: Vivien.Ainley.2008@live.rhul.ac.uk


Interoceptive sensitivity is an essential component of recent models of “the self.” Increased focus on the self (e.g., self-observation in a mirror) can enhance aspects of self-processing. We examined whether self-observation also enhances interoceptive sensitivity. Participants performed a heartbeat detection task while looking at their own face in a mirror or at a black screen. There was significant improvement in interoceptive sensitivity in the mirror condition for those participants with lower interoceptive sensitivity at baseline. This effect was independent of the order of conditions, gender, age, body mass index, habitual exercise, and changes in heart rate. Our results suggest that self-observation may represent a viable way of manipulating individuals' interoceptive sensitivity, in order to directly test causal relations between interoceptive sensitivity and exteroceptive self-processing.