Dissociation of understanding from applying others' false beliefs in remitted schizophrenia: Evidence from a computerized referential communication task

Yong guang Wang, David L. Roberts, Bai hua Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: In research on theory of mind (ToM), false belief paradigms are commonly used. Previous studies have reported that there is heterogeneity in the magnitude of impairment on false belief tasks. Moreover, intact ability to attribute others' false beliefs has been widely reported in patients with remitted schizophrenia. Increasingly, evidence suggests that there may be different cognitive mechanisms underlying the understanding others' false beliefs versus applying one's knowledge of others' false beliefs. Since the role of psychotic symptoms in ToM impairments is an important issue in the study of ToM deficits in schizophrenia, we examined both remitted schizophrenia and non-remitted schizophrenia, with the aim to investigate whether psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia are associated with deficits in understanding others' mental states or difficulties in applying this understanding. Methods: The present study investigated 29 patients with non-remitted schizophrenia, 19 patients with remitted schizophrenia, and 22 healthy controls with a revised computerized referential communication task. The ability to understand others' false beliefs and the ability to apply others' false beliefs were measured separately.Results: Patients with non-remitted schizophrenia performed significantly worse than patients with remitted schizophrenia and healthy controls on a task of understanding others' false beliefs, whereas no significant difference was found between the patients with remitted schizophrenia and healthy controls. Both the patients with non-remitted schizophrenia and patients with remitted schizophrenia performed significantly worse than healthy controls on a task of applying others' false beliefs.Conclusions: Our findings suggested a dissociation of understanding others' false beliefs from applying others' false beliefs in remitted schizophrenia. We preliminarily conclude that deficits in the ToM ability of applying knowledge of others' mental states might be state-dependent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number141
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Volume13
DOIs
StatePublished - May 17 2013

Keywords

  • False belief
  • Perspective taking
  • Referential communication task
  • Schizophrenia
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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