Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Christopher Abeare

Keywords

Psychology

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

The present study investigates the cognitive, affective, and physiological aspects of alexithymia. Verbal fluency measures (phonemic, semantic, Emotion Word Fluency Test; EWFT) were administered to 103 undergraduate students. Heart rate and skin conductance were measured during two baseline periods and during the administration of the performance measures. In a subset of participants (N = 53), additional measures of heart rate variability (HRV) and blood pressure were taken. Physiological arousal during a recovery period that followed the verbal fluency tasks was also measured in this subset. Degree of alexithymic traits in these participants was measured using the TAS-20. Due to the high comorbitidy between alexithymia and depression, the BDI-II was administered and used as a covariate in the analyses. The hypothesis was that alexithymia would be associated with the verbal fluency measures and the physiological measures. The association with verbal fluency measures was expected to be negative, with a particularly strong negative relationship between alexithymia and the EWFT. Analyses failed to find any significant associations between alexithymia and any of the performance measures or physiological measures. Further exploratory analyses revealed significant differences in heart rate and skin conductance, but not blood pressure, across the baseline periods and performance measures. These changes did not interact significantly with high or low alexithymic group membership. The implications of these findings are discussed.

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