Theory of mind in early psychosis
A deficit in theory of mind – the ability to infer and reason about the mental states of others – might underpin the poor social functioning of patients with psychosis. Unfortunately, however, there is considerable variation in how such a deficit is assessed. The current study compared three classic tests of theory of mind in terms of their ability to detect impairment in patients in the early stages of psychosis.
Twenty-three patients within 2 years of their first psychotic episode and 19 healthy controls received picture-sequencing, joke-appreciation and story-comprehension tests of theory of mind.
Whereas the picture-sequencing and joke-appreciation tests successfully detected a selective theory-of-mind deficit in patients, the story-comprehension test did not.
The findings suggest that tests that place minimal demands on language processing and involve indirect, rather than explicit, instructions to assess theory of mind might be best suited to detecting theory-of-mind impairment in early stages of psychosis.