Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Nielson, Kristy A.

Second Advisor

Hoelzle, James B.

Third Advisor

Gordon, Nakia


Alexithymia is a personality trait characterized by difficulties identifying feelings, difficulties describing feelings, and an externally oriented thinking style (EOT). Further, individuals with alexithymia experience chronic physiological arousal. Prior research has shown that non-clinical participants with alexithymic traits cannot subjectively recognize increased arousal in response to viewing an arousing video. Yet, these individuals will still experience physiological arousal and will still have arousal-induced memory modulation. No studies to date have examined arousal effects on false memory in alexithymia. The Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm examines false memory by introducing words associated with a non-presented `theme' word (i.e., critical lure) as memoranda, which typically causes the lures to be remembered as frequently as studied words. Our prior work with non-alexithymic groups has shown enhanced veridical memory and reduced false memory when arousal is induced after learning (i.e., during memory consolidation). Thus, 130 subjects studied and recalled six DRM lists and then watched a 3-min arousing (n = 61) or neutral (n = 69) video. Recognition was tested 70 min later. A median split was utilized to separate participants into high and low alexithymia groups based on Toronto Alexithymia Scale - 20 (TAS-20) scores. Arousal was expected to interact with alexithymia in such a way to allow individuals with high alexithymia to overcome their EOT. Arousal enhanced conservative responding for studied words relative to all foils, including critical lures and `weak associates.' Alexithymia did not impact overall memory performance, but low alexithymia increased confident remembering and high alexithymia increased familiarity processes. Individuals with high alexithymia were more sensitive to both strong and weak false information (critical lures and weak associates, respectively). Arousal was expected to overcome these memory deficits in alexithymia. No direct evidence for an "overcoming" interaction between arousal and alexithymia was found. However, post hoc analyses of alexithymia clusters did support various mechanisms of arousal "overcoming" misinformation.