A new study in Germany identifies heartbeat "signatures" ~ wave patterns in the heart's electrical activity ~ that are linked to personality types.
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 study suggests such heartbeat signatures may provide a way to measure personality that is more objective than current methods. 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, the researchers said.
"We hope that with this method, we have found something that is perhaps more accurate, and more relatable, than many other measures of personality," said study researcher Stefan Koelsch, a professor of biological psychology at the Freie Universität Berlin.
Researchers may also be able to identify heartbeat signatures that are characteristic of certain emotional disorders, such as depression, Koelsch said. Such signatures could one day help diagnose these disorders, or identify people at risk for them, he said.