Dissociation of cognitive from affective components of theory of mind in schizophrenia

Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory, Syvan Shur, Liat Barcai-Goodman, S. Medlovich, Hagay Harari, Yechiel Levkovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Patients suffering from schizophrenia show impaired emotional and social behavior, such as misinterpretation of social situations and lack of theory of mind. However, there is conflicting evidence regarding their ability to perform on theory of mind tasks. Based on previous findings with patients suffering from prefrontal damage, the present study suggests that the behavioral deficit of schizophrenic patients may be due to impaired 'affective theory of mind' abilities, rather than to a general impairment in theory of mind. To test this hypothesis we assessed the ability of 22 schizophrenic patients and 55 age-matched healthy controls, to judge first and second order affective vs. cognitive mental state attribution, based on eye gaze. The relationships between negative and positive symptoms of schizophrenia, and affective and cognitive theory of mind were also assessed. Results indicated that while healthy controls made fewer errors on affective as compared to cognitive theory of mind conditions, schizophrenic patients showed a less prominent trend. Although the pattern of reaction time did not differ significantly between groups, the patients made significantly more errors in the affective conditions, as compared to controls. Furthermore, correlation analysis indicated that impaired affective theory of mind in these patients correlated with their level of negative symptoms. These results indicate that individuals with high level of negative symptoms of schizophrenia may demonstrate selective impairment in their ability to attribute affective mental states. These findings offer new insight into the affective facets of social behavior that may underlie the profound behavioral disturbances observed in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-23
Number of pages13
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2007


  • Affective processing
  • Schizophrenia
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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