Turning the self inside-out: the role of interoception for self- and social-awareness
Modern psychology has long focused on the importance of the body as the basis of the self. However, this focus concerned the exteroceptive body, that is, the body as perceived from the outside, as when we recognize ourselves in the mirror. This influential approach has neglected another important dimension of the body, namely the interoceptive body, that is, the body as perceived from within, as for example when one feels her racing heart. In psychology, research on interoception has focused mainly on its role in emotion. Recent research, however, has attempted to go beyond this approach, aiming instead to show how interoception and interoceptive awareness serve the unity and stability of the self, analogous to the role of interoception in maintaining physiological homeostasis. My talk will consider such findings from studies on infants and adults as a means of going beyond the division between interoception and exteroception to consider their integration in self-awareness. This approach provides an alternative to existing psychological theories of the self insofar it goes beyond the apparent antagonism between the awareness of the self from the outside and from within, to consider their dynamic integration and inform us on how humans navigate the challenging balance between inside and out, in terms of both the individual’s natural (interoception vs. exteroception) and social (self vs. others) embodiment in the world.