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Alexithymia Tendencies and Mere Exposure Alter Social Approachability Judgments


  • This research was supported by a Health Sciences Centre Foundation Operating Grant and Salary Support Award to Dr. D. W. Campbell. We would like to thank Tanya Neuert for data collection assistance and Krista Friesen, Kristina Moffatt, Lindsey Shumila, and Marc Wallace for their assistance in the preparation of the article.

concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Darren W. Campbell, John Buhler Research Centre, Room 801E, Psychiatric Neuroimaging, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, R3E 3P4. Email:


ABSTRACT People have a fundamental motivation for social connection and social engagement, but how do they decide whom to approach in ambiguous social situations? Subjective feelings often influence such decisions, but people vary in awareness of their feelings. We evaluated two opposing hypotheses based on visual familiarity effects and emotional awareness on social approachability judgments. These hypotheses differ in their interpretation of the familiarity or mere exposure effect with either an affective or cognitive interpretation. The responses of our 128-student sample supported the cognitive interpretation. Lower emotional awareness or higher alexithymia was associated with higher approachability judgments to familiarized faces and lower approachability judgments to novel faces. These findings were independent of the Big Five personality factors. The results indicate that individual differences in emotional awareness should be integrated into social decision-making models. The results also suggest that cognitive-perceptual alterations may underlie the poorer social outcomes associated with alexithymia.