Cognitive and Affective Empathy in Individuals with High and Low Alexithymia: The Mediating Role of Eye-Gaze Pattern to Facial Expressions

Document Type : Original Article


1 Ph.D. Student of Cognitive Psychology, Department of Cognitive Psychology, Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran.

2 Assistant Professor, Department of Cognitive Psychology, Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran.

3 Assistant Professor, Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran. Iran.


Aim: The present study aimed to compare cognitive and affective empathy in high and low alexithymia with the mediating role of eye-gaze pattern (i.e., time to first fixation on eyes and fixation duration in mouth).
Method: The research used a causal-comparative method. The study population included university students of Tehran, among which 41 students were selected using the available sampling method. Participants filled out the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (Bagbi et al., 1994) and were grouped as high and low alexithymia based on their scores. Then, they responded to empathy for pain task (Timmers et al., 2018) while their eye-gaze was recorded. Path analysis was used to analyze the data.
Results: Those with high alexithymia had lower cognitive (p = 0.005) and affective empathy (p = 0.020). Moreover, they fixated on the eyes later and for a shorter duration, while on the other hand, they fixated more on the mouth (p = 0.026). Finally, time to first fixation on the eyes mediated the effect of alexithymia on cognitive empathy, and fixation duration on the mouth mediated the effect of alexithymia on affective empathy.
Conclusion: Based on the results, it can be concluded that aberrant eye-gaze pattern is related to hampering empathy in high alexithymic individuals, and low cognitive and affective empathy in high alexithymic individuals is to some degree related to how they look at facial expressions.


Main Subjects

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