The rhythm of your heartbeat may reveal certain aspects of your personality, according to surprising new research from Germany. The study, outlined in the journal PLoS ONE, found that "heartbeat signatures" were closely linked to different types of personality traits, and could potentially be used to diagnose more serious conditions. Here's what you should know:
First things first. What's a heartbeat signature?
Think of it as a wave pattern in the heart's electrical activity, which can be identified through an electrocardiograph, or EKG. These patterns vary from person to person, and now researchers think they could yield clues into personality.
How did researchers figure that out?
They looked at the heartbeat signatures of 425 German university students between ages 18 and 33. Those with certain heartbeat signatures scored higher on tests for neuroticism, a condition linked to negative emotions like depression and anxiety. The same students tended to display fewer positive emotions, like cheerfulness. Researchers also used the technique to identify people with agreeable or romantic personalities.
How can they tell all that by looking at an EKG?
Researchers think a person's personality influences the heart in several ways, says Rachael Rettner at My Health News Daily, "either through direct nerve connections between the brain and heart, or through breathing patterns or release of particular hormones."
Okay, but is the information really of any use?
The researchers say it could be quite helpful. When a personality test is administered, it usually comes in the form of a questionnaire, which is often vulnerable to bias. "We hope that with this method, we have found something that is perhaps more accurate, and more relatable, than many other measures of personality," says lead researcher Stefan Koelsch, a biological psychology professor at Freie Universität Berlin. Emotional disorders like depression have been linked to more serious conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure, and identifying them early could lead to better courses of treatment.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How I lost all my money
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How to make the ultimate grilled cheese
- How Wall Street is chipping away at reform
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- George W. Bush 'ran the country like a cable network,' and other political insights from Chris Rock
- A brief history of the Christmas present
Subscribe to the Week