Emotional Dissonance

New research says that mind-body clashes can help us think more broadly, as reported in Scientific American .

Psychologists Li Huang and Adam Galinsky, from Northwestern University, have shown that clashes in mind and body can actually be useful and help us to think more creatively.

The study entitled “Mind-Body Dissonance: Conflict Between the Senses Expands the Mind’s Horizons” was published in Social Psychological & Personality Science Journal.

Their work suggests that conflicts between the emotions created by the body and the emotions elicited by other sources, such as music and memory, do not just influence what we think but how we think.  Huang and Galinsky’s findings suggest that mind-body dissonance has a positive payoff.

In their study, they developed a way to get people’s facial expressions to depart from their emotional experiences.   For example, some participants were asked to hold a pen in their teeth, forcing an unwitting smile while they were asked to recall happy or sad events or listen to happy or sad music.  The team found that subjects were more likely to think creatively that is to consider a camel as a vehicle in conditions where their expressions were divergent from their emotions.

These findings link to a growing body of evidence that suggests cognition is “embodied” that is our physical actions directly influence the way we think.

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