Research Spotlight: Dr. Ronald F. Levant

Ronald F. Levant, Professor of Psychology, is currently pursuing several lines of investigation: The first is a pilot study, to prepare for a randomized clinical trial, of the feasibility, acceptance and preliminary efficacy of Alexithymia Reduction Treatment (ART), a brief psychoeducational intervention designed to remediate normative male alexithymia in order to enable male veterans suffering from PTSD to benefit more fully from psychological treatment.

The second aims to model men’s reluctance to seek mental health care by testing theoretical models of the variables that mediate and moderate the negative relationships between masculinity constructs and men’s attitudes toward seeking mental health services.

The third focuses on how the relationship between health behaviors and masculinity constructs according to the specific dimension of health behavior and the specific masculinity construct, wherein some facets of masculinity may be associated with health protective factors, whereas others may be associated with health risk factors.

The fourth line of investigation aims to extend existing research on alexithymia by conjoining the current self-report measures which assess alexithymic symptoms with an emotional priming task as well as measures of suppression, repression, and dissociation.  It is expected that individuals who score high on the measures of alexithymia will be more likely to show slower responses (negative priming) in the priming task for experimental (vulnerable and attachment) emotion words.  We will also be examining whether repression, suppression, and dissociation mediate the negative priming effect (after controlling for depression and negative emotion).

Dr. Levant helped create the new psychology of men.  He has developed theory and conducted research on fathering, the gender role strain paradigm, and masculinity ideology in multicultural perspective. He has developed and evaluated a number of gender-related instruments, including the Male Role Norms Inventory (MRNI; Levant & Richmond, 2007), the MRNI-Revised (Levant, Smalley, et al., 2007; Levant, Rankin, et al., 2010 ), MRNI-Adolescent Version (Levant, Graef,  et al., 2008 ), the Normative Male Alexithymia Scale (Levant, Good, et al., 2006), The Femininity Ideology Scale (Levant, Richmond, et al., 2007) and the Women’s Nontraditional Sexuality Questionnaire (Levant, Rankin, et al., under reviews).

Dr. Levant’s signature contribution has been in establishing the empirical foundation for the “Normative Male Alexithymia” hypothesis. Levant (1992) formulated this hypothesis based on a review of the developmental research literature on male emotion socialization, which showed that although boys start life with greater emotional reactivity and expressiveness than girls, and retain this advantage until 1 year of age, they become less verbally expressive than girls at about age two and less facially expressive by age six. Levant, Good, et al. (2006) reviewed the literature on gender differences in alexithymia among adults, finding that men experience greater alexithymia than women. The alexithymia literature was then meta-analyzed to determine whether there was empirical support for sex differences (Levant, Hall, et al., 2009). An effect size estimate based on 41 existing samples found consistent, although expectedly small, differences in mean alexithymia between women and men. Men exhibited higher levels of alexithymia.