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Social cognition is frequently impaired following an acquired brain injury (ABI) but often overlooked in clinical assessments. There are few validated and appropriate measures of social cognitive abilities for ABI patients. The current study examined the validity of the Edinburgh Social Cognition Test (ESCoT, Baksh et al., 2018) in measuring social cognition following an ABI.
Forty-one patients with ABI were recruited from a rehabilitation service and completed measures of general ability, executive functions and social cognition (Faux Pas; FP, Reading the Mind in the Eyes; RME, Social Norms Questionnaire; SNQ and the ESCoT). Forty-one controls matched on age, sex and years of education also performed the RME, SNQ and ESCoT.
A diagnosis of ABI was significantly associated with poorer performance on all ESCoT measures and RME while adjusting for age, sex and years of education. In ABI patients, the ESCoT showed good internal consistency with its subcomponents and performance correlated with the other measures of social cognition demonstrating convergent validity. Better Trail Making Test performance predicted better ESCoT total, RME and SNQ scores. Higher TOPF IQ was associated with higher RME scores, while higher WAIS-IV working memory predicted better FP performance.
The ESCoT is a brief, valid and internally consistent assessment tool able to detect social cognition deficits in neurological patients. Given the prevalence of social cognition deficits in ABI and the marked impact these can have on an individual’s recovery, this assessment can be a helpful addition to a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment.
Current measures of social cognition have shown inconsistent findings regarding the effects of executive function (EF) abilities on social cognitive performance in older adults. The psychometric properties of the different social cognition tests may underlie the disproportional overlap with EF abilities. Our aim was to examine the relationship between social cognition and EF abilities using the Edinburgh Social Cognition Test (ESCoT; Baksh, R.A., Abrahams, S., Auyeung, B., & MacPherson, S.E. (2018). The Edinburgh Social Cognition Test (ESCoT): Examining the effects of age on a new measure of theory of mind and social norm understanding. PloS One, 13(4), e0195818.), a test assessing four different aspects of social cognition: cognitive theory of mind (ToM), affective ToM, interpersonal understanding of social norms, and intrapersonal understanding of social norms.
We administered the ESCoT, EF measures of inhibition, set shifting, updating, and a measure of processing speed to 30 younger and 31 older adults. We also administered the Visual Perspective Taking task (VPT) as a ToM test thought to be reliant on EF abilities.
Better performance on cognitive ToM was significantly associated with younger age and slower processing speed. Better performance on affective ToM and ESCoT total score was associated with being younger and female. Better performance on interpersonal understanding of social norms was associated with being younger. EF abilities did not predict performance on any subtest of the ESCoT. In contrast, on the VPT, the relationship between age group and performance was fully or partially mediated by processing speed and updating.
These findings show that the ESCoT is a valuable measure of different aspects of social cognition and, unlike many established tests of social cognition, performance is not predicted by EF abilities.
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