# Exploring the relationship between alexithymia and empathy : the role of emotion recognition and metacognitive ability

Spicer, LC 2018 , 'Exploring the relationship between alexithymia and empathy : the role of emotion recognition and metacognitive ability', Honours thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Alexithymic traits have been consistently found to be associated with deficits in social functioning. These social deficits in individuals with alexithymic traits have been suggested to be related to the reduced levels of empathy in those with alexithymic traits. Factors underlying this relationship, however, are presently not understood. Such an understanding may provide insight into addressing the empathy deficits seen in alexithymic individuals. This study aimed to support prior studies that indicate a relationship between cognitive and affective alexithymic traits and cognitive and affective domains of empathy, respectively. A preliminary investigation of the impact of emotion recognition ability (anger, fear, sadness) and metacognitive ability on the relationship between alexithymic traits and empathy was also of interest. One hundred and twenty participants aged between 18 and 55 years (68 females; M = 24.95, SD = 7.19) completed the Toronto Alexithymia Scale – 20, the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI), the Emotion Recognition Task (ERT) and provided confidence ratings for each presented emotion of the ERT to assess metacognitive ability. The study identified negative relationships between cognitive alexithymic traits, and cognitive empathy across the emotions of anger, fear, and sadness. A moderated mediation effect for this relationship was also found for the emotion sadness. The findings suggest poor emotion recognition of sadness negatively impacts the relationship between cognitive alexithymic traits and cognitive empathy, but only for those with low levels of metacognitive ability. No significant relationships were found between affective alexithymic traits and affective empathy. These findings upon further testing in a clinical population may contribute to addressing empathy deficits seen in alexithymic individuals, in order to improve their social functioning.