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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2013 Aug;105(2):316-34. doi: 10.1037/a0033374. Epub 2013 Jun 17.

Do you use your head or follow your heart? Self-location predicts personality, emotion, decision making, and performance.

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  • 1Psychology Department, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58108-6050, USA. Adam.Fetterman@my.ndsu.edu

Abstract

The head is thought to be rational and cold, whereas the heart is thought to be emotional and warm. In 8 studies (total N = 725), we pursued the idea that such body metaphors are widely consequential. Study 1 introduced a novel individual difference variable, one asking people to locate the self in the head or the heart. Irrespective of sex differences, head-locators characterized themselves as rational, logical, and interpersonally cold, whereas heart-locators characterized themselves as emotional, feminine, and interpersonally warm (Studies 1-3). Study 4 showed that head-locators were more accurate in answering general knowledge questions and had higher grade point averages, and Study 5 showed that heart-locators were more likely to favor emotional over rational considerations in moral decision making. Study 6 linked self-locations to reactivity phenomena in daily life--for example, heart-locators experienced greater negative emotion on high stressor days. In Study 7, we manipulated attention to the head versus the heart and found that head-pointing facilitated intellectual performance, whereas heart-pointing led to emotional decision making. Study 8 replicated Study 3's findings with a nearly year-long delay between the self-location and outcome measures. The findings converge on the importance of head-heart metaphors for understanding individual differences in cognition, emotion, and performance.

PMID:
23773045
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3722275
Free PMC Article
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