Alexithymic mentalising: Theory of mind and social adaptation

Colin A. Wastell1, Alan J. Taylor1
1Macquarie University, Australia
Cite this article:  Wastell, C. A., & Taylor, A. J. (2002). Alexithymic mentalising: Theory of mind and social adaptation. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 30(2), 141-148.

Volume 30 Issue 2 | e1153 | Published: March 2002 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2002.30.2.141

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Alexithymic individuals are unable to enter into empathic intimate relationships and yet are capable of socially appropriate behavior outside of intimate relationships. The construct of theory of mind is outlined and used to explore a possible mechanism to account for social adaptiveness in alexithymia. This study tested the mentalising ability of subjects high on alexithymia. Alexithymic subjects' performance was no different from that of subjects drawn unsystematically from the same population. Alexithymic subjects were able to correctly complete the false belief task, indicating that, from a prediction point of view, the deficits in interpersonal processing were not in the area of belief estimation. The use of tacit social knowledge in a Theory of Mind process is proposed as a means by which alexithymic individuals guide their social behavior. The implications of this result are discussed with respect to the measurement of mentalising ability.

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