Alexithymia, not autism, is associated with impaired interoception

Punit Shah*, Richard Hall, Caroline Catmur, Geoffrey Bird

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Citations (Scopus)


It has been proposed that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is associated with difficulties perceiving the internal state of one's body (i.e., impaired interoception), causing the socio-emotional deficits which are a diagnostic feature of the condition. However, research indicates that alexithymia - characterized by difficulties in recognizing emotions from internal bodily sensations - is also linked to atypical interoception. Elevated rates of alexithymia in the autistic population have been shown to underpin several socio-emotional impairments thought to be symptomatic of ASD, raising the possibility that interoceptive difficulties in ASD are also due to co-occurring alexithymia. Following this line of inquiry, the present study examined the relative impact of alexithymia and autism on interoceptive accuracy (IA). Across two experiments, it was found that alexithymia, not autism, was associated with atypical interoception. Results indicate that interoceptive impairments should not be considered a feature of ASD, but instead due to co-occurring alexithymia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-220
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
P.S. is supported by a doctoral studentship from the Medical Research Council . R.H. was supported by an Undergraduate Bursary from the Experimental Psychology Society . G.B. is supported by a grant from the Baily Thomas Charitable Fund “Interoception and Autism Spectrum Disorders”. We thank Aaron Dettner and Adam Skinner for their assistance with data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors.


  • Alexithymia
  • Autism
  • Body awareness
  • Interoception
  • Interoceptive awareness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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