Alexithymia Impairs the Cognitive Control of Both Negative and Neutral Material in Adults: how Does it Impact on Intervention Care?
O. Luminet1, D. Dressaire2, C.B. Stone3, K.A. Nielson4
1Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium and Belgian Fund for Scientific Research, Brussels, Belgium
2University of Montpellier III, Montpellier, France
3City University of New York, New York City, USA
4Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Background: Individuals with alexithymia tend to exhibit a deficit in emotional processing and poorer emotional regulation which can then lead to poorer mental health and somatic disorders. We investigated the moderating impact of alexithymia on the ability of adults to control the recall of negative and neutral material, using the directed forgetting paradigm. Methods: Participants studied negative (Experiment 1, N = 60) and neutral (Experiment 2, N = 60) words. They were instructed to forget the first half and remember the second half of an entire list of words. Findings: Alexithymia impaired the recall of wanted negative material and impairs the ability to prevent the recall of unwanted negative material and the ability to exhibit cognitive control over memory for neutral material. The "externally oriented thinking" factor of alexithymia may play a pivotal role in this inability. Discussion: These results suggest that the deficits associated with alexithymia represent a global decline in cognitive control. They will help guide the future treatment of primary and comorbid alexithymia, giving special consideration to its effects on both emotional and cognitive processing.