Evidence suggests that interoceptive and exteroceptive attention might have different perceptual effects. However, the effects of these different types of body-focused attention have never been directly compared. The current research investigated how interoceptive and exteroceptive attention affect subsequent performance on the somatic signal detection task (SSDT). In Experiment 1, 37 participants completed the SSDT under usual testing conditions and after performing an interoceptive heartbeat perception task. This task led to a more liberal response criterion, leading to increased touch reports in the presence and absence of a target vibration. This finding is consistent with suggestions that attending internally contributes to physical symptom reporting in patients with medically unexplained symptoms (MUS). In Experiment 2, 40 participants completed the SSDT before and after an exteroceptive grating orientation task. This task led to a more stringent response criterion, leading to decreased touch reports in the presence and absence of the target, possibly via a reduction in sensory noise. This work demonstrates that internal and external body-focused attention can have opposite effects on subsequent somatic perceptual decision making and suggests that attentional training could be useful for patients reporting MUS. © 2012 Copyright The Experimental Psychology Society.
- Signal detection analysis