Introspection is basically thinking about your thinking, a way to judge your own thoughts and actions - and inherently difficult to study. The British research team devised a way to measure introspective ability by comparing people's confidence in a decision they made with the accuracy of that decision.
Brain scans showed the people's introspective ability was strongly linked to the amount of gray matter in a spot of the prefrontal cortex, right behind the eyes, the researchers reported.
In addition, the study found people who were more introspective also had stronger functioning white matter in that part of the brain - the nerve fibers that act as a telephone system to allow cells to communicate with others.
By learning the neurologic basis of self-awareness, "might we be able to come up with potential strategies to intervene in these cases and improve people's introspective ability?" asks Stephen Fleming of University College London, lead author of the new research published in the journal Science.
Being introspective may not be a prerequisite for being drawn to Ultrarunning, but maybe it helps. After all, we spend hours alone on the trails, with only the companionship of our thoughts. And introspection takes that thinking a step further--it is thinking ABOUT thinking.
To me that sounds like some pretty high order mental functioning, and with that I'd better stop before I wrench my arm out of joint with self-congratulatory back patting.