'Theory of mind' in violent and nonviolent patients with paranoid schizophrenia

Ahmad Abu-Akel, Khalid Abushua'leh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of mentalizing abilities (or theory of mind) and empathic abilities in violent behavior were studied in 24 hospitalized males with paranoid schizophrenia (ICD-10). Patients were divided into violent and nonviolent groups based on their history of committing violent acts against others. To examine these abilities, patients heard a series of 12 short scenarios depicting social situations followed by questions that require making mental state or empathic inferencing. Our results show that violent patients have more difficulties than nonviolent patients in tasks involving empathic inferencing, and better abilities in inferring cognitive-mental states in others. In addition, violence seems to be associated with a history of alcohol and drug abuse, young age, and the hostility component of the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale. Logistic regression analyses suggest that violence is associated with the combination of hostility towards others, good mentalizing abilities and poor empathy. These results are discussed in light of recent theories on violent behavior in psychiatric populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-53
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2004


  • Empathy
  • Mentalizing
  • Paranoid schizophrenia
  • Theory of mind
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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