Research Reports - Relationships between alexithymia, affect recognition, and empathy after traumatic brain injury

J Head Trauma Rehabil. 2013 Feb 12

Neumann D, Zupan B, Malec JF, Hammond F

OBJECTIVES:: To determine (1) alexithymia, affect recognition, and empathy
differences in participants with and without traumatic brain injury (TBI); (2)
the amount of affect recognition variance explained by alexithymia; and (3) the
amount of empathy variance explained by alexithymia and affect recognition.
PARTICIPANTS:: Sixty adults with moderate-to-severe TBI; 60 age and
gender-matched controls. PROCEDURES:: Participants were evaluated for alexithymia
(difficulty identifying feelings, difficulty describing feelings, and
externally-oriented thinking); facial and vocal affect recognition; and affective
and cognitive empathy (empathic concern and perspective-taking, respectively).
RESULTS:: Participants with TBI had significantly higher alexithymia; poorer
facial and vocal affect recognition; and lower empathy scores. For TBI
participants, facial and vocal affect recognition variances were significantly
explained by alexithymia (12% and 8%, respectively); however, the majority of the
variances were accounted for by externally-oriented thinking alone. Affect
recognition and alexithymia significantly accounted for 16.5% of cognitive
empathy. Again, the majority of the variance was primarily explained by
externally-oriented thinking. Affect recognition and alexithymia did not explain
affective empathy. CONCLUSIONS:: Results suggest that people who have a tendency
to avoid thinking about emotions (externally-oriented thinking) are more likely
to have problems recognizing others' emotions and assuming others' points of
view. Clinical implications are discussed.

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