Washington: Aspects of one’s personality can literally be revealed in a heartbeat, a new study has suggested.
The new study, conducted by researchers from Germany, identified heartbeat “signatures” — wave patterns in the heart’s electrical activity — that were linked with personality traits.
People with certain heartbeat signatures scored higher on tests of neuroticism, meaning these individuals tend to experience more negative emotions, such as anxiety and a depressed mood.
They also tended to experience fewer positive emotions, including happiness and cheerfulness. Measures of the heart’s electrical activity could also be used to predict people’s agreeableness, a personality trait that describes how compassionate or empathetic an individual is.
The results suggest such heartbeat signatures may provide a way to measure personality that is more objective that current methods, the researchers say.
According to the researchers, personality is commonly assessed using questionnaires, but these are subject to bias — people may choose responses that they think are more acceptable for their gender, for instance, or they may misperceive their own traits.
“We hope that with this method, we have found something that is perhaps more accurate, and more relatable, than many other measures of personality,” Stefan Koelsch, the study researcher from Freie Universitat Berlin, said.
Koelsch said that researchers may also be able to identify heartbeat signatures that are characteristic of certain emotional disorders like depression, or of cardiovascular diseases and such signatures could one day help diagnose these disorders, or identify people at risk for them.
The study involved 425 university students between the ages of 18 to 33. The students completed personality tests, and had their heart electrical activity measured using electrocardiography.
Personality traits may influence the heart in a number of ways — either through direct nerve connections between the brain and the heart, or through breathing patterns or release of particular hormones, Koelsch said.
Previously, Koelsch and his colleagues had found a link between certain heart electrical activity patterns and people with “cold” personalities, who tend not to show emotion. In the new study, similar patterns were seen among those with high scores in neuroticism and low scores in positive emotion.
The study has been published in the journal PLoS ONE.