Front. Psychol., 02 February 2023 Sec. Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology. doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1113851

Physical and psychological proximity in humans: From the body to the mind and vice-versa

There is now a large consensus that mental processes are embodied phenomena (e.g., Clark, 1999; Barsalou, 2008; Adams, 2010; Shapiro, 2014; Da Rold, 2018; Zwaan, 2021; Ale et al., 2022). In the field of Embodied Cognition, the relationship between bodily, cognitive, and emotional states has been under intense investigation (e.g., Wilson, 2002; Shapiro, 2010; Costantini et al., 2011; Winkielman et al., 2015; Baumeister et al., 2017; Fini et al., 2017, 2021a). In the last years, specific attention has been given to interoceptive signals i.e., the signals coming from the inner parts of the body, such as heartbeats, breaths, gastrointestinal signals, and other internal sensations (e.g., Tsakiris et al., 2011; Pezzulo et al., 2018; Porciello et al., 2018; Iodice et al., 2019; Tschantz et al., 2022). These signals are important to assess internal emotional states (Critchley and Garfinkel, 2017), defining self-boundaries (Monti et al., 2021, 2022), adaptively regulating our physical needs (Pezzulo et al., 2015) and contributing also to the expression and maintenance of psychological disorders (Paulus and Stein, 2010). Although the understanding of the impact of bodily signals on psychological functioning has significantly enriched our knowledge in the field, additional research has yet to be conveyed to explore the intimate link between interoceptive signals and mental life. With the current research theme, we collected a number of diverse contributions, illustrating how internal bodily signals inform our mental processes: ranging from functions pertaining the bodily self, word processing, and stress management, to (interlinked) complex interpersonal dynamics. An integration of such diverse research strands, we believe, will be critical for the understanding of complex psychological and social processes, lying at the heart of what makes us humans (e.g., decisions, emotions, interpersonal coordination). By recognizing and detecting signals of different nature—bodily, psychological and interpersonal—this research field adopts a holistic approach to the study of human behavior.

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