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Keywords:

  • cognition disorders;
  • neuropsychology;
  • schizophrenia;
  • family;
  • risk factors

Objective: It has been proposed that alterations in theory of mind underlie specific symptoms of psychosis. The present study examined whether alterations in theory of mind reflect a trait that can be detected in non-psychotic relatives of patients with schizophrenia.

Method: Participants were 43 patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, 41 first-degree non-psychotic relatives and 43 controls from the general population. Theory of mind was assessed using a hinting task and a false-belief task.

Results: There was a significant association between schizophrenia risk and failure on the hinting task (OR linear trend = 2.01, 95% CI: 1.22–3.31), with relatives having intermediate values between patients and controls. Adjustment for IQ and neuropsychological factors reduced the association by small amounts. The association between schizophrenia risk and failure on the false-belief tasks was not significant.

Conclusion: Changes in theory of mind are associated with schizophrenia liability. General cognitive ability and neuropsycholo- gical measures seem to mediate only part of this association.