With billions of people in the world, everyone has a different manner and approach towards responding to life and making everyday decisions. Some people make use of their emotions and let intuition or their ‘gut’ guide them while others rely on facts, logic and rationality. Recent studies have discovered that there is a way of equally slicing the human population right down the middle on how they decide the most basic of things: whether they let their hearts guide them or the head.
While it is fairly easy to figure out what approach most people have towards a variety of issues like simply asking them: “Are you an optimist or a pessimist?” or “Did you vote for Trump or Clinton?” Asking things like these can pretty much reveal a lot about the other person’s nature, rationale and preferences.
But recently, scientists have started asking this one simple question: “Are you head person or a heart person?” Sure, the question itself isn’t very recent but it is only now that researches and scientists believe that the differences between these two types of people aren’t just on the surfaces but run quite deep. These differences make them who they are, mould their approach towards life, influence their decisions and very well, shape the world as we know it.
Many researches stemmed from the much popular notions that the heart is emotional and warm while the head is rational and cold. With regards to this belief, a series of studies were carried out by researchers Adam Fetterman and Michael Robinson. They asked hundreds of undergrad students from North Dakota State University questions to pursue the idea that these beliefs are widely consequential.
Another much recent study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes proposes that who we are as a self essentially depends on where we believe we are. The research team, led by Adam Galinsky at Columbia Business School surveyed of hundreds of U.S. and Indian citizens to explore ‘the antecedents and consequences of whether people locate their sense of self in the brain or the heart’. This study particularly focuses on the ramifications of people’s categorization as being head-people or heart-people upon bigger issues like abortion laws, criteria for declaring someone dead and organ donation.
Galinsky and his team are confident that they are onto a new branch of discovery in human behavior. “We propose that a person’s perception of where the sense of self is located is a critical and defining trait similar to a person’s … personality profile,” they write.
Both these series of studies have brought to light an interesting new approach towards the bigger issues of life. Some of their combined findings include:
- Head and heart people define themselves according to their organ’s popularized symbolism:
In the study by Fetterman and Robinson, the people who believed their self was in the head thought of themselves as “rational, logical, and interpersonally cold” while those who found their self in the heart thought they were “emotional, feminine and interpersonally warm”.
- Varied responses to hypothetical moral decisions
People who said that their self was located in the heart were more likely to rely on emotional factors when making a hypothetically moral decision as compared to those who said their self was in the head. For example, when asked what they would do if a sadistic prisoner guard told them to kill their own son otherwise he would kill their son and another prisoner. The heart locators refused to kill their son while the head locators said they would kill their son and not condemn two people to die.
- Approach towards abortion laws
Using a simpler approach, Adam Galinsky and his team found out that heart locators were more likely to argue for stricter abortion laws once a heartbeat has been detected in the fetus as compared to head locators who believed that the person carrying the fetus should have a say in the matter.
- Organ donation and financial donation
Galinsky and his fellow researches tried various nuanced techniques rather than just the traditional straightforward questions as well. They didn’t want only to determine if someone was a head or a heart person but also the extent to which they were so.
For example, imagine if you had to make organ donation after you passed. But you also had a $100 million to distribute between each of the recipients of your donated organs. Researchers observed that the hypothetic head locator and heart locator donors gave a considerable chunk of the donation to the brain-receivers and the heart-receivers respectively. Presumably they did so because the donors saw a part of their own self live on in the recipient. The other receivers of hypothetically donated organs like eyes, liver, stomach, spine etc. were bequeathed with smaller amounts of money comparatively.
- Ending life support and DNR
Galinsky’s team also found out that heart locators endorsed the idea that a person’s death should be determined when their heart stops beating rather than them being declared medically brain dead. Heart locators and head locators also had strikingly contrasting approaches towards DNR and life support.
- Preference towards charitable causes
In a research conducted through surveying US college students, the results showed that heart locators favored heart disease related charities as compared to head locators who favored charities based on brain diseases like Alzheimer’s etc.
- Cultural influences
Researchers from Galinsky’s team believe that a key role played in people’s tendency to be heart or head locators comes from cultural influences and whether we believe we are inter-connected with other people or think of ourselves as independent. People who were recruited from India, which has a very collectivist culture, to participate were more likely to categorize themselves as heart locators. Similarly, when researchers asked a group of people to read a paragraph with personal pronouns like ‘I’ and ‘me’ they were prone towards categorizing themselves as head locators as compared to people who read paragraphs with pronouns like ‘we’ and ‘us’ who categorized themselves as heart locators.
Some of the characteristic traits of heart people include:
- They consider themselves emotional.
- They are interpersonally warm, intimate and like to discuss their feelings and emotions.
- Their life and moral decisions are based on feelings and intuition. They leave logic at the door and might take longer in coming upon a decision but once they do, they tend to stick with it.
- They believe themselves to be socially interconnected and have a sense of social belonging.
- They are super empathetic.
- They become stressed easily and may experience more negative emotions on high-stress days as compared to normal, routine days.
- They are extremely perceptive and that makes them very intuitive.
- Heart people are more prone to seek agreeableness and that tends to make them lean towards people pleasing at time. Such people need constant reminders in their life to not put others first at the expense of themselves.
- Heart people have a lot of feelings and they feel them deeply. They wear their heart on their sleeve and consider their emptions the compass of life.
If you are a head person:
- You call yourself an introvert but not necessarily in a bad way. You are generally reserved and quiet.
- You tend to be more observant of what goes around you.
- When it comes to making decisions, you take your time weighing the pros and cons and because you make use of logic and rationale when making important decisions you cannot be swayed easily.
- Just because you are a head person doesn’t mean that you have to be boring too. Head locaters have a very good sense of humor.
- You are better equipped to handle stressful situations because you do not give in to emotions easily.
- You are always that friend whom every other friend comes to when they need help making a life altering decision.
- You have feelings too but you do not let them rule you.
- People might call you cold and calculating because of your logical stance on things.