Direct-gaze signals are known to modulate human cognition, including self-awareness. In the present study, we specifically focused on ‘bodily’ self-awareness and examined whether direct gaze would modulate one's interoceptive accuracy (IAcc)—the ability to accurately monitor internal bodily sensations. While viewing a photograph of a frontal face with a direct gaze, an averted face or a mere white cross as a baseline, participants were required to count their heartbeats without taking their pulse. The results showed higher IAcc in the direct-gaze condition than in the averted-face or baseline condition. This was particularly the case in participants with low IAcc at baseline, indicating that direct gaze enhanced the participants’ IAcc. Importantly, their heart rate was not different while viewing the direct gaze and averted face, suggesting that sensitivity to interoceptive signals, rather than physiological arousal, is heightened by direct gaze. These findings demonstrate the role of social signals in our bodily interoceptive processing and support the notion of the social nature of self-awareness.
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