• 22q11.2 deletion syndrome;
  • Velo-cardio-facial syndrome;
  • Theory of Mind;
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders;
  • reciprocal social behavior;
  • social cognition

Velo-cardio-facial syndrome (VCFS; 22q11.2 deletion syndrome) results from a genetic mutation that increases risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We compared Theory of Mind (ToM) skills in 63 individuals with VCFS (25% with an ASD diagnosis) and 43 typically developing controls, and investigated the relationship of ToM to reciprocal social behavior. We administered a video-based task to assess mentalizing at two sites University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University. The videos depicted interactions representing complex mental states (ToM condition), or simple movements (Random condition). Verbal descriptions of the videos were rated for Intentionality (i.e. mentalizing) and Appropriateness. Using Repeated Measures analysis of variance (ANOVA), we assessed the effects of VCFS and ASD on Intentionality and Appropriateness, and the relationship of mentalizing to Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) scores. Results indicated that individuals with VCFS overall had lower Intentionality and Appropriateness scores than controls for ToM but not for Random scenes. In the SUNY sample, individuals with VCFS, both with and without ASD, performed more poorly than controls on the ToM condition; however, in the UCLA sample, only individuals with VCFS without ASD performed significantly worse than controls on the ToM condition. Controlling for site and age, performance on the ToM condition was significantly correlated with SRS scores. Individuals with VCFS, regardless of an ASD diagnosis, showed impairments in the spontaneous attribution of mental states to abstract visual stimuli, which may underlie real-life problems with social interactions. A better understanding of the social deficits in VCFS is essential for the development of targeted behavioral interventions. Autism Res 2012, 5: 407–418. © 2012 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.