As we describe verbally what we are feeling[an emotion such as anger], body’s physiological response gets affected by doing that. That’s startling new research by Karim Kassam of Carnegie Mellon University and Wendy Mendes of the University of California San Francisco. Better awareness of our emotional state causing a physiological change in the body is strong evidence of connection between our body and mind.
Volunteers were asked to go through what could be figuratively called “maths test hell”. They were asked to solve difficult math problems even as evaluators jeered them and poured negative comments. The tough time was designed to bring either of two emotions to the fore: anger or shame. After completing the test, some participants were provided with a questionnaire that appraised their feelings [e.g. How angry are you right now?], where as others were given questions that were not related to their emotional state.
Among those who got angry at the evaluators, the heart rate of those wrote the emotion based questionnaire was did not go up as much as those who answered the questionnaire not related to their emotions. As the study explains, “Measurement effects exist throughout the sciences – the act of measuring often changes the properties of the observed. Our results suggest that emotion research is no exception.”
Lead author Karim Kassam added: “What impressed us was that a subtle manipulation had a big impact on people’s physiological response. Essentially, we’re asking people how they’re feeling and finding that doing so has a sizeable impact on their cardiovascular response.”