The relationship between mind and body has been debated for centuries. In more recent years, cognitive psychologists have suggested that bodily functions can be the cause or the effect of thought processes. This concept is known as embodied cognition and has been demonstrated with various body and mind functions, such as the discovery that men perceive themselves to be more powerful when they have a clenched fist, as opposed to a neutral hand position.
Research has suggested that healing — whether that be physical or psychological — is associated with an upward body posture and physically looking upwards.
In a study published in PLOS One, researchers state that “embodied cognition suggests that the relationship between bodily posture and [healing]may not be just metaphorical, but causal”. Therefore they aimed to study this claim through the recruitment of 58 participants that were assigned to two different groups. One group would observe images of a person gazing up and the second would observe an image of a person gazing down. Participants were also asked to mimic the posture of looking up or down that was shown to them in the image. Afterward, all participants were shown words that were related or unrelated to healing and they were asked to judge which ones were synonymous with healing.
The researchers found that participants who adopted the looking down posture had longer response times for recognising words that were associated with healing; whereas those who had the upward body posture displayed quicker decision-making for deciphering which words were related to healing.
This research appears to provide evidence for concept of embodied cognition, due to the discovery that thought processes can in fact be hindered or enhanced by physical body movements, therefore providing an example of how mind and body can function as one as opposed to two separate systems.