"They are boring people" – Processing of affective prosody in alexithymic and non-alexithymic speakers

Speech melody or intonation (prosody) is a fundamental part of the verbal communication of emotions. The project explores the production and the reception of affective prosody in so-called "emotionally blind" (alexithymic) individuals.

Project No. G 402

Anna Carlotta Welding

Alexithymic individuals have difficulties identifying and describing emotions. Until today, we can´t exactly tell, whether this is due to an altered perception or a deficit in conceptualization: Do alexithymic persons have difficulties communicating what they feel or do they perhaps not feel the same way as non-alexithymic persons? Based on the work of the BALI-project, this study looks into prosody to approach this question.

Although the speech of alexithymic individuals has been described as “monotonous” from early on (Nemiah & Sifneos, 1970), their verbal behavior has rarely been studied, and if it has, then only from a lexical point of view. However, in the communication of emotions, how something is said seems to be just as important as what is said. For this reason, I will look into the use of prosodic features in free and controlled speech of alexithymic and non-alexithymic participants.

In addition, the reception of prosody will be examined in an fMRI-experiment, in order to see if and how neurophysiological activation differs between alexithymic and non-alexithymic people. These imaging techniques should shed more light on the perceptual dimension of alexithymia.

Discipline

Linguistics

Supervisor

Prof. Dr. Gisela Klann-Delius

Prof. Dr. Malek Bajbouj