Background: Theory of mind (ToM) can be divided into cognitive and affective ToM, and a distinction can be made between overmentalizing and undermentalizing errors. Research has shown that ToM in schizophrenia is associated with non-social and social cognition, and with clinical symptoms. In this study, we investigate cognitive and clinical predictors of different ToM processes.
Methods: Ninety-one individuals with schizophrenia participated. ToM was measured with the Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition (MASC) yielding six scores (total ToM, cognitive ToM, affective ToM, overmentalizing errors, undermentalizing errors and no mentalizing errors). Neurocognition was indexed by a composite score based on the non-social cognitive tests in the MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery (MCCB). Emotion perception was measured with Emotion in Biological Motion (EmoBio), a point-light walker task. Clinical symptoms were assessed with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). Seventy-one healthy control (HC) participants completed the MASC.
Results: Individuals with schizophrenia showed large impairments compared to HC for all MASC scores, except overmentalizing errors. Hierarchical regression analyses with the six different MASC scores as dependent variables revealed that MCCB was a significant predictor of all MASC scores, explaining 8–18% of the variance. EmoBio increased the explained variance significantly, to 17–28%, except for overmentalizing errors. PANSS excited symptoms increased explained variance for total ToM, affective ToM and no mentalizing errors.
Discussion: Both social and non-social cognition were significant predictors of ToM. Overmentalizing was only predicted by non-social cognition. Excited symptoms contributed to overall and affective ToM, and to no mentalizing errors.