Published: 2022-11-09

Interoception is the term for the perception of signals generated by inside organs. The better your interoception, the better you can take care of yourself. In addition, this quality is linked with empathy.



The perception of signals coming from the internal organs is called interoception.  For example, a person might feel that their heart beats incorrectly, or something is wrong with the stomach, or vascular problems, or spots in their vision have increased, etc.  A person, if not suffering from hypochondria, will be very attentive to such phenomena, while another doesn’t feel it or is indifferent.

A correlation has been found between attentiveness to one’s own body and attention to other people.

The more a person has interoception, ie the more they’re sensitive to their internal organs, the more responsive they are in society.  True, the experiment from which the scientists derived these conclusions (the economic game “Dictator”) causes me some doubts, but the hypothesis itself is interesting.

In principle, the better your interoception, the better you can take care of yourself.  And if this feature is combined with caring for others, then the better for everyone.

In the opinion of the scientists, even material generosity correlates with interoception, although not directly related to empathy.  The level of empathy remains the same for those who have been trained in the development of interoception.  In other words, these people have learned to better listen to themselves, but not others.

The bottom line is that one who is attentive to their own organism is more sensitive to others, but this isn’t mechanical.  If you teach someone to listen to their heartbeat, their heart will not become more generous.  There is a connection between interoception and altruism, but it isn’t cause-and-effect.

Another interesting point – the better you feel your heartbeat, the better you understand your own emotions.  The heart does not deceive.

In developed interoception, there are disadvantages:  it is associated with increased anxiety.  Although on the other hand, as an ophthalmologist, I would prefer people to be more attentive to themselves.  Many simple don’t notice changes in vision, sometimes serious, and come to us much later than they should.  Often the success of treatment depends on timeliness.  And in this sense it is better to be in a panic than a completely careless person.  Moreover, such carelessness and blindness to oneself, apparently, is also associated with a “deafness” toward others.  I suppose we don’t even need those quotes there.

As for empathy, in our office, it isn’t in short supply for our patients, but it’s important to add that you also need to be able to help them.  Not bad, when a place has both, right?

Arthur Benjamin