Abstract

Although alexithymia is recognized as a set of traitlike deficits in emotion processing, research suggests there are concomitant cognitive issues as well, including what appears to be an unusual pattern of enhanced working memory (wm) despite broader executive dysfunction. it is unknown whether this enhancement includes the executive elements of wm and whether executive control of wm in alexithymia differs for emotional and neutral stimuli. this study examined how alexithymia moderates patterns of interference resolution in wm with valenced and nonvalenced stimuli. Participants (N = 93) completed the toronto Alexithymia scale and a recency probes wm task containing positive, negative, and neutral stimuli, with some trials containing proactive interference from previous trials. the reaction time difference between interference and noninterference trials indexed degree of interference resolution. toronto Alexithymia scale score moderated a within- subject effect such that, when valenced probes were used, there was less proactive interference in the positive relative to negative valence condition; this valence- based interference discrepancy was significant for a subset of highly alexithymic participants. Alexithymia did not moderate proactive interference to negative or neutral stimuli or accuracy of responses. these results suggest that, although alexithymia does not influence executive control in wm for nonemotional items, alexithymic people demonstrate an idiosyncratic response to positive stimuli that might indicate blunted reactivity.

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