Original article:

Thematic reasoning and theory of mind. Accounting for social inference difficulties in schizophrenia

Evolutionary Psychology 3: 1-19 Rhiannon Corcoran, Psychology Department, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK, mbrxsrc3@fs1.fse.man.ac.ukChristopher D. Frith, Institute of Neurology, University College London, Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology, 12 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3BG, UK, c.frith@fil.ion.ucl.ac.uk


Background: Corcoran (2000, 2001) has suggested that theory of mind judgements can be arrived at using analogical reasoning skills and she has proposed that this is the route that people with schizophrenia take when they make inferences about others’ mental states. Recent work has demonstrated a robust relationship between mental state inference and autobiographical memory, providing initial support for the model. This study examines the model further by exploring the assertion that in schizophrenia the ability to infer the mental states of others also depends upon effective social reasoning in conditional contexts. Method: 59 people with a DSM IV diagnosis of schizophrenia and 44 healthy subjects performed four versions of the thematic selection task. The versions varied according to the familiarity and social nature of the material they incorporated. The same subjects also completed the Hinting Task, a measure of theory of mind and tests of intellectual functioning and narrative recall. Results: The schizophrenia and the normal control groups differed in their performance on all of the measures except that of intellectual functioning. Explorations within the schizophrenia group indicated that social reasoning was most markedly affected in the patients with negative signs and in those with paranoid delusions while for the hinting task, those with negative signs performed significantly worse than those in remission but this difference seemed to be due to these patients’ poorer narrative memory. There was evidence in the schizophrenia data to support the hypothesis of a relationship between theory of mind and social conditional reasoning. Conclusion: This work provided further support for the idea that in patients with schizophrenia at least, judgements about the mental states of others are achieved using analogical reasoning.


schizophrenia, theory of mind, conditional reasoning, social contract theory, analogical reasoning.  

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Evolutionary Psychology - An open access peer-reviewed journal - ISSN 1474-7049 © Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young; individual articles © the author(s)

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