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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 14 November 2012 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00432

A study of theory of mind in paranoid schizophrenia: a theory or many theories?

  • 1Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada
  • 2Institut des Sciences Cognitives, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada
  • 3Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies, Montréal, QC, Canada
  • 4Centre de Recherche Fernand Séguin de l’Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine, Montréal, QC, Canada

Social cognitive psychologists (Frith, 1992; Hardy-Baylé et al., 2003) sought to explain the social problems and clarify the clinical picture of schizophrenia by proposing a model that relates many of the symptoms to a problem of metarepresentation, i.e., theory of mind (ToM). Given the differences in clinical samples and results between studies, and considering the wide range of what is considered to constitute ToM, one must ask if there a core function, or is ToM multifaceted with dissociable facets? If, there are dissociable dimensions or facets, which are affected in patients with paranoid schizophrenia? To answer these questions, a group of 21 individuals diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and 29 non-clinical control subjects, were tested on a battery of five different measures of ToM. The results confirmed that there was little difference in specificity of three of the tests in distinguishing between the clinical and non-clinical group, but there were important differences in the shared variance between the tests. Further analyses hint at two dimensions although a single factor with the same variance and the same contributing weights in both groups could explain the results. The deficits related to the attribution of cognitive and affective states to others inferred from available verbal and non-verbal information. Further analyses revealed that incorrect attributions of mental states including the attribution of threatening intentions to others, non-interpretative responses and incomplete answers, depending on the test of ToM.

Keywords: schizophrenia, paranoid symptoms, theory of mind, overmentalization, undermentalization, test specificity

Citation: Scherzer P, Leveillé E, Achim A, Boisseau E and Stip E (2012) A study of theory of mind in paranoid schizophrenia: a theory or many theories? Front. Psychology 3:432. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00432

Received: 19 June 2012; Accepted: 01 October 2012;
Published online: 14 November 2012.

Edited by:

Xavier Noel, Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique, Belgium

Reviewed by:

Giancarlo Dimaggio, Third Center of Cognitive Psychotherapy, Italy
Mahesh Menon, University of Toronto, Canada

Copyright: © 2012 Scherzer, Leveillé, Achim, Boisseau and Stip. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Peter Scherzer, Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Montréal, CP 8888, Succursale Centre Ville, Montréal, QC, Canada H3C 3P8. e-mail: scherzer@videotron.ca