Psychosomatic Medicine

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The expression and perception of facial emotion in alexithymia: a pilot study.

McDonald, P W; Prkachin, K M

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: The term alexithymia denotes a cluster of traits including a marked difficulty in finding words to describe emotions. Despite a rapidly growing literature, the construct has not been validated adequately. The present study addressed the validity of the construct. Twenty males assessed as alexithymic or not, on the basis of the Schalling-Sifneos Personality Scale, were videotaped during tasks designed to elicit spontaneous and posed facial expressions of emotion. They also rated the emotional impact of the tasks and prototypic displays of emotion. Results showed that alexithymics were comparable to controls in judgments of the impact of provocative slides and in their ability to label posed expressions. With the exception of expressions of anger and happiness, they were also comparable in the ability to pose emotions. Alexithymics showed a deficit in spontaneous displays of negative affect. Results support the validity of the concept and suggest that deficits in nonverbal expression are central to the phenomenon. Implications for conceptualizations of alexithymia and emotion are discussed.

Copyright (C) 1990 by American Psychosomatic Society

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