Perspective-taking abilities in the balance between autism tendencies and psychosis proneness

Ahmad M. Abu-Akel, Stephen J. Wood, Peter C. Hansen, Ian A. Apperly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Difficultieswith the ability to appreciate the perspective of others (mentalizing) is central to both autism and schizophrenia spectrum disorders. While the disorders are diagnostically independent, they can co-occur in the same individual. The effect of such co-morbidity is hypothesized toworsen mentalizing abilities. The recent influential ‘diametric brain theory’, however, suggests that the disorders are etiologically and phenotypically diametrical, predicting opposing effects on one’s mentalizing abilities. To test these contrasting hypotheses, we evaluated the effect of psychosis and autism tendencies on the perspective-taking (PT) abilities of 201 neurotypical adults, on the assumption that autism tendencies and psychosis proneness are heritable dimensions of normal variation.We showthat while both autismtendencies and psychosis proneness induce PTerrors, their interaction reduced these errors. Our study is, to our knowledge, the first to observe that co-occurring autistic and psychotic traits can exert opposing influences on performance, producing a normalizing effect possibly by way of their diametrical effects on socio-cognitive abilities. This advances the notion that some individuals may, to some extent, be buffered against developing either illness or present fewer symptoms owing to a balanced expression of autistic and psychosis liability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20150563
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1808
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Royal Society of London. All rights reserved.


  • Comorbidity
  • Diametric
  • Psychiatry
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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