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What is interoception?

Catherine M. Cavaliere, PhD, OTR

December 3, 2021



What is interoception?



  • Information that we get from the internal organs
  • Body cues
  • Feeling
  • Drives us to act 

(Mahler, 2017)

Interoception is the information that we get from our internal organs, and it gives us cues about our bodily state. Understanding these cues and being able to process and integrate them motivates us to act. As Kelly Mahler states, it is the basis for self-regulated behavior. An elementary example is your stomach growling and having a headache. This means you are hungry. You are connecting bodily cues to a feeling and emotion. You then act to regulate yourself by getting something to eat. This is purposeful, regulated, and directed behavior. Interoception is being able to understand ourselves and being responsive to our bodies.

Interoception also allows us to use these feelings as a reference point to connect with others and develop empathy. For instance, you know what hunger feels like; therefore, if somebody else tells you they are hungry, you can empathize with them. This creates perspective-taking allowing us to attune to other people, develop relationships, and ultimately to co-regulate and self-regulate.

catherine m cavaliere

Catherine M. Cavaliere, PhD, OTR

Dr. Cavaliere is an assistant professor and research coordinator in the Occupational Therapy Program at Dominican College. She has been a practicing clinician for over 20 years and has spent 15 of those working with children, adolescents, and adults with sensory processing disorders. Dr. Cavaliere's approach to working with families and individuals combines both sensory informed and polyvagal perspectives. The combination has shaped her thought and intervention approach. Dr. Cavaliere is passionate about the contribution of sensory health to well-being, and her research efforts focus on the impact of sensory processing and integration on various health-related areas. She is currently in the process of validating a tool to profile an individual's sensory health and is authoring a chapter on Sensory Health for interprofessional communities.

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