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Separating component processes of theory of mind in schizophrenia

Authors


Correspondence should be addressed to Ms Phoebe E. Bailey, School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia (e-mail: pbailey@psy.unsw.edu.au).

Abstract

Objective. It has been argued that in order to take the perspective of another the ‘default’ self-perspective must first be inhibited. Thus, executive function failures (and specifically, reduced inhibitory control of the self-perspective) may contribute to the theory of mind (ToM) difficulties that have been observed in schizophrenia.

Method. Participants with schizophrenia (N=28) and demographically matched controls (N=30) were administered a behavioural measure of ToM that directly manipulates inhibitory demands by involving either high- or low-levels of self-perspective inhibition.

Results. Relative to controls, participants with schizophrenia demonstrated impaired ToM, but did not have particular difficulty on the task that placed high demands on self-perspective inhibition.

Conclusion. Disruption of other-perspective taking, rather than self-perspective inhibition, appears to be the more important determinant of ToM impairment in schizophrenia. This finding is discussed in relation to competing perspectives of ToM.

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