Westerners tend to localize their sense of self in the head, and, to a lesser degree, in the chest. However, single-point, localization studies of the self omit direct exploration of the size and shape of the embodied self. This study explored a) beliefs about the location and spatial distribution of the embodied sense of self, and b) whether individual differences in how the embodied self was represented were associated with psychological and subjective well-being. Results from a sample of 206 American adults confirm extant reports, indicating that the embodied sense of self is most often located in the head and chest. However, results from this study extend previous findings by suggesting that the majority of respondents (70%) located their embodied sense of self in multiple body regions, and individuals that reported a more widely distributed sense of self reported greater well-being. Specifically, a more widely distributed sense of self in the torso was most strongly associated with psychological well-being. No relationship emerged between the distribution of the sense of self in the head and psychological well-being. Results from this study indicate that the sense of self may be located throughout the body, and that locating the sense of self in the torso may have psychological benefit. As such, exploring methods of shifting the sense of self out of the head and into the body may have therapeutic value.
Hanley, A. W., Lecy, N., & Hanley, R. (2021). Locating the embodied sense of self and examining its relationship with psychological well-being. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, Advance publication.