Dualism influences everyday behaviours

Dualist beliefs can have a marked influence on everyday behaviours, new research has suggested. To be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the study revealed espousing this form of philosophy - which promotes the belief that the brain and mind are separate entities - can have significant consequences in real life.

Investigators from the University of Cologne, Germany discovered individuals with dualist tendencies ate less healthily and had a more reckless attitude with regard to exercise than those whose beliefs are more physicalist.

According to the authors, those with dualistic beliefs are less likely to engage in behaviours that protect their wellbeing because they perceive their bodies to be disposable vessels that assist the mind as it interacts with the physical world.

For those who consider their minds and bodies to be distinct entities, looking after their bodies is less of a concern, the researchers added.

Professor Chris Frith from University College London, a Chartered Psychologist, says:

"I note that this seems to be a priming study. So it was not about contrasting people who believe in dualism with those who do not. Instead behaviour was altered by priming people with various suggestions. These primes had an immediate effect.

"Quite apart from its relevance for dualism, such observations of the immediate efficacy of primes have implications for behavioural control in many situations."