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'Gut Instinct' May Stem From the Heart
Date:1/6/2011

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Everyone feels gut instincts at one time or another: Marry that guy! Don't take that job. Stay inside during this snowstorm! Now, a new study suggests there is indeed a link between your heartbeat and the decisions you make.

"These findings can help explain how we make key choices in life -- for example, which house to buy, which job to go for -- for better or for worse," explained study author Barnaby D. Dunn, a clinical psychologist who works with the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, England.

The findings don't indicate that your heart is very good at giving you insight into what to do. And the research doesn't point to any particular way to get better at decision making. Still, the study does manage to find evidence that there's something to the idea of trusting your heart.

"I work as a clinical psychologist, and I have been struck in my therapy practice how clients often describe their emotions and decisions in terms of what is happening in their bodies -- for example, feeling brokenhearted or following their gut instincts," Dunn said. "I wanted to see if there was a scientific basis to the idea that what happens in our bodies shapes our minds."

The researchers tried to find a link between heart and mind by first testing participants to see if they could estimate how fast their hearts were beating. "Participants are instructed to try to 'feel' their heart internally and not to directly measure their pulse with their fingers," Dunn said. "Most people say they are guessing at the tracking task and are unconfident in their performance, and yet there are marked differences in how accurate their estimates are. Only around one-fifth of people show high levels of accuracy."

Researchers then tried to elicit emotions from the participants by showing them photos of happy things (like a cute pupp
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