Skin Conductance as an Index of Alexithymic Traits in the General Population

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Alexithymia concerns a difficulty identifying and communicating one’s own emotions, and a tendency towards externally-oriented thinking. Recent work argues that such alexithymic traits are due to altered arousal response and poor subjective awareness of “objective” arousal responses. Although there are individual differences within the general population in identifying and describing emotions, extant research has focused on highly alexithymic individuals. Here we investigated whether mean arousal and concordance between subjective and objective arousal underpin individual differences in alexithymic traits in a general population sample. Participants rated subjective arousal responses to 60 images from the International Affective Picture System whilst their skin conductance was recorded. The Autism Quotient was employed to control for autistic traits in the general population. Analysis using linear models demonstrated that mean arousal significantly predicted Toronto Alexithymia Scale scores above and beyond autistic traits, but concordance scores did not. This indicates that, whilst objective arousal is a useful predictor in populations that are both above and below the cut-off values for alexithymia, concordance scores between objective and subjective arousal do not predict variation in alexithymic traits in the general population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
JournalPsychological Reports
Early online date31 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: L. J. H. was supported by a BBSRC PhD studentship provided by the BBSRC Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership [grant reference: BB/M01116X/1]. C. T. K. was supported by an MRC PhD studentship [grant reference: MR/R015813/1]. A. F. was supported by ERC-2012-StG Grant Agreement No. 20111109 (Multsens; Uta Noppeney PI). J. L. C. was supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under ERC-2017-StG Grant Agreement No. 757583 (Brain2Bee; Jennifer Cook PI).


  • Alexithymia
  • objective arousal
  • physiological arousal
  • skin conductance
  • subjective arousal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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