Alexithymia and the automatic processing of affective information: Evidence from the affective priming paradigm

Cognition and Emotion 20 (1):64-91 (2006)
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Abstract

In Study 1, we examined the moderating impact of alexithymia (i.e., a difficulty identifying and describing feelings to other people and an externally oriented cognitive style) on the automatic processing of affective information. The affective priming paradigm was used, and lower priming effects for high alexithymia scorers were observed when congruent (incongruent) pairs involving nonverbal primes (angry face) and verbal target were presented. The results held after controlling for participants' negative affectivity. The same effects were replicated in Studies 2 and 3, with trait anxiety and depression entered as additional covariates. In Study 3, no moderating impact of alexithymia was found for verbal-facial pairs suggesting that the results cannot be merely explained in terms of transcoding limitations for high alexithymia scorers. Overall, the present results suggest that alexithymia could be related to a difficulty in processing and automatically using high arousal emotional information to respond to concomittant behavioural demands.

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