Heartbreak Puts Brakes on Heart


Waiting for another person's opinion of you will slow your heart, and its rate will dip even further if you get rejected, a new Dutch study has found. "Unexpected social rejection could literally feel 'heartbreaking,' as reflected by a transient slowing of heart rate," the study authors wrote in a news release from the Association for Psychological Science. In the study, volunteers were asked to submit photos of themselves and told that students at another university would look at the images and decide whether they liked the person in the photos. This was a ruse: no one was actually looking at them. But the volunteers didn't know that, and returned later to look at a series of photos of the college students who were ostensibly judging them and guess what their opinions of the volunteers had been.

Using an electrocardiogram, researchers then measured the heart rates of the volunteers as they discovered what the other students supposedly thought of them. The researchers found that the heart rates of the volunteers fell as they waited to learn about a supposed judgment. If they were rejected, their heart rates slowed even more, and they slowed the most in those who expected the other person would like them. Bregtje Gunther Moor and colleagues at the University of Amsterdam and Leiden University in the Netherlands released their study online recently in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Psychological Science.
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