Being ‘Weighed Down By Guilt’ Is Real, Scientists Find

Ever felt “weighted down by guilt?” Turns out this isn’t just an expression. Researchers have found proof that feeling guilty can actually affect how heavy a person feels. Have scientists finally made a discovery to aid (imaginary) weight loss?

When someone thinks about something unethical or “wrong” that they’ve done, studies show that people tend to overestimate their body weight. As Huffington Post reports, researchers did not find the same when people experienced other negative emotions. Guilt, unlike sadness or revulsion, seemed to add to subjective body weight.

The study also examined the association between “importance” and “heaviness,” but did not find the same pattern of increased self-perceived weight. The expression “weighted down by guilt” seems to be unique in its real-world accuracy.

These findings come from four studies ran by psychologists from Princeton University and the University of Waterloo in Ontario. Their work is among the first research done in the rising field of “embodied cognition.” Unlike other areas of psychology, this field looks at the way people think and how that affects their bodies and behaviors. The researchers say these four studies are among the first to look at the embodiment of guilt and its bodily effects.

One of the key studies involved asking subjects to think about something unethical they had done in the past, like lying or stealing. Compared to a control group of subjects, those who were actively feeling guilt would overestimate their own body weight, according to Medical News Today. The control subjects were asked to either think of nothing specific or to consider someone else doing something unethical. The difference only seemed to happen when a subject thought about their own unethical actions.

So maybe being “weighed down by guilt” is more than just a metaphor. Could the next big weight loss fad involve a “guilt-free” diet?

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