The Effects of Autism and Alexithymia on Physiological and Verbal Responsiveness to Music
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It has been suggested that individuals with autism will be less responsive to the emotional content of music than typical individuals. With the aim of testing this hypothesis, a group of high-functioning adults on the autism spectrum was compared with a group of matched controls on two measures of emotional responsiveness to music, comprising physiological and verbal measures. Impairment in participants ability to verbalize their emotions (type-II alexithymia) was also assessed. The groups did not differ significantly on physiological responsiveness, but the autism group was significantly lower on the verbal measure. However, inclusion of the alexithymia score as a mediator variable nullified this group difference, suggesting that the difference was due not to absence of underlying emotional responsiveness to music in autism, but to a reduced ability to articulate it.
KeywordsAutism Music Alexithymia Emotion
The research reported in this paper was conducted by the first author as part of a program of PhD study, and is largely based on material contained in his PhD thesis. This program of study was self-funded by the first author. The third author was the first author’s PhD supervisor. The second author provided significant assistance with developing the equipment for carrying out the GSR experiments and the software for recording the results in a form available for subsequent analysis by the first author using standard statistical methods.
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