Alexlthymic mentalising

Theory of Mind and social adaptation

Colin A. Wastell*, Alan J. Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)


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 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-148
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Behavior and Personality
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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