Wisdom influenced by heart rate variability

Posted on April 9, 2016

Photo: flickr

Lead researcher Prof. Igor Grossman, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and colleagues publish their findings in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

Participants were required to take part in a series of tasks, including a social reasoning task and an attributional judgement task. As part of these tasks, subjects were required to offer their opinion on social issues they felt strongly about, from both a first- and third-person perspective.

The participants' resting heart rates were measured during each task using an electrocardiogram (ECG).

When asked about their opinions on social issues from a third-person perspective, participants with greater heart rate variation were found to reason in a wiser, less biased manner than those with lower heart rate variation.

Prof. Grossman says it was already known that individuals with greater heart rate variation tend to have better executive functioning, such as working memory, than those with lower heart rate variation.

However, he points out that this does not necessarily mean people with greater heart rate variation are wiser; such individuals may have to reflect on issues from a third-person perspective in order to achieve wiser judgement.

"[...] some people may use their cognitive skills to make unwise decisions. To channel their cognitive abilities for wiser judgment, people with greater heart rate variability first need to overcome their egocentric viewpoints," he says.


Source material from University of Waterloo

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