Get access

Social cognition deficits and the ‘ultra high risk’ for psychosis population: a review of literature


Dr Andrew Thompson, Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, 35 Poplar Road, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia. Email:


Aim: A number of risk factors for developing a psychotic disorder have been investigated in the ‘ultra high risk’ (UHR) population, including neurocognitive abilities, social functioning and, more recently, social cognition. We aimed to review the literature on social cognition in the UHR population.

Methods: Literature was restricted to English articles and identified using Pubmed, Medline, PsychINFO and CINAHLplus, as well as the reference lists of published studies and reviews. Search terms included social cognition, theory of mind, emotion recognition, attributional style, social knowledge, social perception, ‘at risk mental state’, psychosis prodrome ‘clinical high risk’ and ‘ultra high risk’. Inclusion criteria were an outcome measure of a social cognition task and an UHR population defined by a structured validated instrument.

Results: Seven original research articles met the inclusion criteria, one of which was a conference abstract. One of the two studies that assessed theory of mind, two of the four studies that assessed emotion recognition and both the two studies that assessed social perception/knowledge found significant deficits in UHR patients. The single study that assessed attributional bias also reported differences in UHR patients compared with healthy controls.

Conclusions: There is limited published literature on social cognitive performance in the UHR population. Despite this, deficits in certain social cognitive abilities do appear to be present, but further research with more reliable cross-cultural measures is needed. The characterization of social cognitive deficits in the UHR populations may aid in the identification of potential markers for development of a subsequent psychotic disorder, as well as targets for early intervention.