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Emotion. 2010 Dec;10(6):803-14. doi: 10.1037/a0020146.

Coherence between emotional experience and physiology: does body awareness training have an impact?

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1650, USA.


Two fundamental issues in emotion theory and research concern: (a) the role of emotion in promoting response coherence across different emotion systems; and (b) the role of awareness of bodily sensations in the experience of emotion. The present study poses a question bridging the two domains; namely, whether training in Vipassana meditation or dance, both of which promote attention to certain kinds of bodily sensations, is associated with greater coherence between the subjective and physiological aspects of emotion. We used lag correlations to examine second-by-second coherence between subjective emotional experience and heart period within individuals across four different films. Participants were either: (a) experienced Vipassana meditators (attention to visceral sensations), (b) experienced dancers (attention to somatic sensations), and (c) controls with no meditation or dance experience. Results indicated a linear relationship in coherence, with meditators having highest levels, dancers having intermediary levels, and controls having lowest levels. We conclude that the coherence between subjective and cardiac aspects of emotion is greater in those who have specialized training that promotes greater body awareness.

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