Role of theory of mind in emotional awareness and alexithymia: Implications for conceptualization and measurement

Richard D. Lane, Chiu Hsieh Hsu, Dona E.C. Locke, Cheryl Ritenbaugh, Cynthia M. Stonnington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

The goal of this study was to determine whether alexithymia, which is characterized by difficulty in recognizing and describing emotions, is associated with impairments in the ability to mentally represent emotional states. We studied 89 outpatients including 29 conversion disorder patients, 30 functional somatic syndrome [e.g. fibromyalgia] patients and 30 medical controls.Groups did not differ on affective or cognitive Theory of Mind (ToM) measures, the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS) or the Twenty-Item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) after adjusting for Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) variables. Across all patients, LEAS but not TAS-20 correlated positively with affective and cognitive ToM measures after adjusting for PANAS scores. Impairments in ToM functioning influence LEAS performance but not TAS-20 scores. These findings support the distinction between a milder "anomia" form of alexithymia associated with impaired emotion naming and a more severe "agnosia" form associated with impaired mental representation of emotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-405
Number of pages8
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Volume33
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

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Keywords

  • Affective agnosia
  • Alexithymia
  • Emotional awareness
  • Somatic symptom disorders
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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