Keywords: Alexithymia; Emotional Agnosia; Visual Agnosia; Cognitive Theory of Emotions; Perceptual Theory of Emotions.
Alexithymia is a disease affecting emotional awareness. Those suffering from it are not capable of identifying the emotions they experience and thus cannot describe them: in emotionally salient situations, they are aware of internal bodily changes, but do not feel genuine emotions. In this article, we discuss the hypothesis that alexithymia is a specific form of emotional agnosia. We show that there are significant similarities between alexithymia and agnosia and argue that, on the basis of these similarities, we can draw several conclusions on the nature of emotions and on how they are processed by the cognitive system. In particular, we highlight how our analysis is relevant for the classical contraposition between cognitive and perceptual theories of emotions. In fact, the similarities between alexithymia and agnosia provide good arguments to substantiate a particular kind of perceptual theory of emotions: the identification and the recognition of emotions relies on similar mechanisms for processing proprioceptive and interceptive information as those used to process the exteroceptive information that allows us to identify and recognize objects in the external world.