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Social cognition is impaired in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia. However, its relationship to social functioning and perceived social support has yet to be explored. Here, we examine how theory of mind (ToM) relates to social functioning in MCI and dementia.
Older adults (cognitively normal = 1272; MCI = 132; dementia = 23) from the PATH Through Life project, a longitudinal, population-based study, were assessed on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), measures of social functioning, and social well-being. The associations between RMET performance, social functioning, and cognitive status were analysed using generalised linear models, adjusting for demographic variables.
Participants with MCI (b=−.52, 95% CI [−.70, −.33]) and dementia (b=−.78, 95% CI [−1.22, −.34]) showed poorer RMET performance than cognitively normal participants. Participants with MCI and dementia reported reduced social network size (b=−.21, 95% CI [−.40, −.02] and b=−.90, 95% CI [−1.38, −.42], respectively) and participants with dementia reported increased loneliness (b = .36, 95% CI [.06, .67]). In dementia, poorer RMET performance was associated with increased loneliness (b=−.07, 95% CI [−.14, −.00]) and a trend for negative interactions with partners (b=−.37, 95% CI [−.74, .00]), but no significant associations were found in MCI.
MCI and dementia were associated with poor self-reported social function. ToM deficits were related to poor social function in dementia but not MCI. Findings highlight the importance of interventions to address social cognitive deficits in persons with dementia and education of support networks to facilitate positive interactions and social well-being.
Reports suggest that the development of a child's understanding of the mind (ToM) is enhanced in bilingual children. This is usually ascribed to different features of executive functioning (EF), though there is not a lot of empirical support for that position. Instead, published studies suggest an association between linguistic processes such as sociolinguistic sensitivity, metalinguistic awareness, language proficiency, and bilinguals’ ToM development. Coupled with evidence that bilinguals rely more on person-intention cues and show enhanced abilities to repair breakdowns in communication compared to monolinguals, this paper presents the argument that navigating sociolinguistic environments with agents differing in linguistic knowledge helps bilingual children develop an enhanced ToM. Additionally, this review includes relevant literature on deaf children and cultural variations and ToM, which are indicative of other situations in which contextual variants, especially those that are linguistically mediated, have an impact on the development of ToM that is independent of EF.
Research has demonstrated that greater cognitive flexibility and perspective taking skills are associated with positive outcomes throughout the lifespan. Cognitive flexibility is a core component of executive function allowing us to control goal-directed behaviour and to face new and unexpected conditions in the environment. Perspective-taking or Theory of Mind (ToM) refers to the capacity to make inferences about and represent others’ point of view, mental states and intentions.
The aim of this study was to assess age-related effects on executive functions and the role of cognitive flexibility in perspective-taking skills.
Two age groups (34-44 years and 45-55 years) were compared on a task-switching paradigm the MATeM neuropsychological software (Maria Grazia Inzaghi, 2019) and all participants completed the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory (Oldfield, 1971), the IRI Interpersonal Reactivity Index (Davis, 1980), the RMET Reading the Mind in the Eyes (Baron-Cohen, 2001) and the BIDR-6 Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding (Paulhus, 1991).
suggested that increased age was associated with decreased set-shifting, perspective-taking, mindreading abilities and increased tendency to give overly positive answers (socially desirable responding). Furthermore, participants with reduced cognitive flexibility (higher switch cost) were less able to attribute mental states to others and to appreciate another person’s point of view.
It can be argued that readiness to appropriately adjust one’s behaviour according to a changing environment is related to flexibly shift between conflicting psychological perspectives. Future research include training studies which would further our understanding of these relationships and allow more effective cognitive and social interventions.
Human social interactions are rooted in the ability to understand and predict one’s own and others emotions. Individuals develop accurate mental models of emotional transitions (MMET) by observing regularities in affective experiences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1616056114) and a failure in this regard can produce maladaptive behaviors, one of the hallmark features in several psychiatric conditions.
To investigate whether MMET are stable over time and which emotion dimensions (e.g., valence, dominance) influence MMET over time.
We selected thirty-seven emotion categories (DOI: 10.1177/0539018405058216) and five different time intervals (from 15 minutes to 4 days). Sixty-two healthy participants rated the likelihood of transition between all possible pairs of affective states at each time interval.
As expected, we observed a trend toward uncertainty as the timescale increased. In addition, the probability of shifting between two affective states having the same valence (e.g., happiness and contentment) was rated higher than for emotions with opposite polarity (e.g., happiness and sadness). Even though this pattern becomes gradually noisier for predictions far in the future, it is still present for infradian intervals (Fig.1).
Our results suggest that MMET are informed by the valence dimension and moderately influenced by the timescale of the prediction. These findings in the healthy population may prompt the exploration of emotion dynamics in psychiatric conditions. Future studies could leverage the MMET approach to test whether specific psychiatric disorders (e.g., bipolar disorder) are associated with abnormal patterns of emotion transitions.
The social life of animals poses specific adaptive challenges that may be cognitively different to challenges from ecological adaptations to their physical environment. Social cognitive adaptations for dealing with other agents are evolutionarily remarkable in that they automatically become an adaptive challenge that may trigger counter- or co-adaptations. This chapter discusses three main problems in social cognition: first, the issue of mentalism or theory of mind, or whether social cognitive adaptations in animals are based on mentalistic attribution skills that may involve representing the intentions and knowledge of others; second, the cognitive underpinnings of animal communication, with a focus on referential and intentional communication; and third, the problem of how animals know and represent the social relations structuring their groups. There is widespread debate about how the social knowledge and reasoning demonstrated in animal social behavior are exactly implemented. The traditional debate in comparative psychology between reductionist behavioristic explanations and complex cognitive explanations has become especially pronounced in social cognition. A widespread proposal is that the type of knowledge demonstrated by animals is ‘implicit,’ distinct both from the verbally expressible knowledge evolved by humans, and from low-level, reflex-like associative behaviours and habits. However, the key notion of implicit knowledge remains elusive and ill-defined.
Semantic communication is about transmitting mental representations of reality. Three research questions address the nature of this process in primates. Can primates produce signals that are meaningful in a lexical sense? Are they capable of compositional semantics? Can they create and infer meaning by integrating context and intention? There is good evidence that, as recipients, primates have capacities at all three levels, whereas for signallers the evidence is less compelling. This difference may have cognitive roots, due to the fact that primate signallers are typically engaged in the here-and-now and, unlike humans, less able to refer to memory content. Future research will have to clarify what mental structures primates can take into account during communication, including entities that are not physically present.
Many children with hearing loss have atypical social communication skills despite having age-appropriate speech and language. Graduate assessments in an early intervention program for children with hearing loss indicated that despite achieving language skills within typical limits for over a decade, social skills development was frequently delayed. Data gathered in 2007 and 2012 indicated the majority of children with hearing loss demonstrated poor acquisition of concepts linked to theory of mind (ToM), achieving either delayed or alternative acquisition patterns. A small-group 8-week social skills intervention program was subsequently implemented for graduating cohorts with the aim of developing and improving social interactions. In 2017, measures of ToM were collected for 15 children with hearing loss aged 4–6 years and compared to ToM 2007 and 2012 cohort data. An additional measure of social understanding and flexibility, a persuasion task, was also implemented. Although ToM skills for the majority of the 2017 cohort were found to be on par with hearing peers, and were better than skills demonstrated by the 2007 and 2012 graduates, ability to successfully participate in a socially significant persuasion task with a peer was delayed. Challenges and solutions to the development of age-appropriate social skills are proposed.
The research of theory of mind (ToM) and emotion perception (EP) in adolescents with major depressive disorder (MDD) is scarce, and no study to date has investigated the association between EP and long-term outcomes of adolescents with MDD. The aim of the current study was to evaluate ToM and EP in adolescents with MDD, as compared to healthy controls (HCs). In addition, we aimed to assess the association between impairment in ToM and EP, depressive symptom severity, and long-term outcome in the MDD group.
We compared the performance of 14 adolescents with MDD and 25 HC in the Facial Expression Recognition Task (FERT) and the Interpersonal Perception Task. We followed up with the MDD group 2 years later to assess the level of their depressive symptoms using the Children’s Depression Rating Scale–Revised (CDRS-R).
No differences were found between adolescents with MDD and HC in the ToM and FERT tasks. Also, within the MDD group, there was no association between the severity of depressive symptoms and task performance. In the MDD group, there was a significant correlation between lower levels of accuracy in the FERT during the index depressive episode and lower CDRS-R scores on follow-up 2 years later (r2 = 0.35, p = 0.021).
EP impairments in adolescents with MDD might predict worse long-term outcome. Further research is needed to verify our findings and to assess for a possible neurobiological underpinning for the state and trait impairments in EP in adolescents with MDD.
Edmund Wilson’s famous critique that Steinbeck’s stories are “almost entirely about plants and animals” is tackled in this chapter, which argues that Steinbeck’s attention to the inner life of nonhuman animals represents a radical rethinking of humanity’s claims to privilege as a species. Focusing on Steinbeck’s representation of human and animal characters in The Red Pony--in particular his ascription of interiority to animals and his reduction of humans to pure behavior--I argue that Steinbeck’s work approaches a post-human ethical pluralism that defines humans according to their fallibility and cognitive deficits. However, Steinbeck’s exploration of the human-animal connection becomes more complex when we examine the relationship between the separate stories of The Red Pony, which interweave tales about animals with stories about the Western frontier. Once again, Steinbeck’s biological focus on humans as a species becomes caught up in problems of race that leave unchallenged a mythic ideology of the West, one that disguises the racial slaughter undergirding the animalistic emergence of white identity.
The literature has demonstrated how the relationship between cognitive or emotional intelligence and age exhibits an inverted-U-shape and that this decline can be mitigated by an individual’s cognitive reserve (CR). Rather less is known, however, about the pattern of changes in cognitive empathy or the ability to recognize the thoughts or feelings of others.
The aim of the present study was firstly to analyze the effect of age, gender, and CR (measured through educational level), on the capacity to show cognitive empathy. Secondly, we aimed to evaluate what type of relationship—linear or quadratic—exists between age and cognitive empathy. We finally aimed to analyze the moderator role of educational level on the relationship between age and cognitive empathy.
Totally, 902 Spanish adults aged between 18 and 79 years (M = 43.53, SD = 11.86; 57% women).
Participants were asked to indicate their educational level (primary, high school, or college education) and their cognitive empathy was assessed using the Eyes test.
Women scored higher than men on cognitive empathy. Participants with a college education had higher scores on cognitive empathy than those with a lower educational level. Additionally, the relationship between age and cognitive empathy fit an inverted-U-shaped curve, consistent with the data found for cognitive and emotional intelligence. Finally, the age-related decrease in cognitive empathy appeared to be mitigated by a higher educational level, but only in those individuals aged 35 years and above. Limitations and clinical implications are discussed.
Mentalizing, a dynamic form of social cognition, is strengthened by language experience. Past research has found that bilingual children and adults outperform monolinguals on mentalizing tasks. However, bilingual experiences are multidimensional and diverse, and it is unclear how continuous individual differences in bilingual language experience relate to mentalizing. Here, we examine whether individual differences in bilingual language diversity, measured through language entropy, continuously pattern with mentalizing judgments among bilingual adults, and whether this relationship is constrained by first vs. second language reading. We tested sixty-one bilingual adults on a reading and inference task that compared mental state and logical inferences. We found that greater language diversity patterned with higher mentalizing judgments of mental state inferences across all readers, and that L2 readers attributed more mentalizing to logical inferences compared to L1 readers. Together, we found evidence of a positive relationship between continuous individual differences in bilingual language diversity and mentalizing.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in Parkinson’s disease (PD) includes deficits in theory of mind (ToM). However, associations between ToM and caregiver burden and distress are still unclear. The objective of this pilot study was to preliminarily explore the relation between ToM and caregiver burden and distress in a sample of PD-MCI patients. Twelve PD-MCI patients were evaluated on a ToM task (Faux Pas), whereas their caregivers were assessed on caregiver burden (Zarit Burden Interview-12 items) and distress (Neuropsychiatric Inventory–Distress). Cognitive ToM was significantly associated with caregiver distress, but caregiver burden was associated with the severity of patient psychiatric symptoms.
Discrepancies exist in reports of social cognition deficits in individuals with premanifest Huntington’s disease (HD); however, the reason for this variability has not been investigated. The aims of this study were to (1) evaluate group- and individual-level social cognitive performance and (2) examine intra-individual variability (dispersion) across social cognitive domains in individuals with premanifest HD.
Theory of mind (ToM), social perception, empathy, and social connectedness were evaluated in 35 individuals with premanifest HD and 29 healthy controls. Cut-off values beneath the median and 1.5 × the interquartile range below the 25th percentile (P25 – 1.5 × IQR) of healthy controls for each variable were established for a profiling method. Dispersion between social cognitive domains was also calculated.
Compared to healthy controls, individuals with premanifest HD performed worse on all social cognitive domains except empathy. Application of the profiling method revealed a large proportion of people with premanifest HD fell below healthy control median values across ToM (>80%), social perception (>57%), empathy (>54%), and social behaviour (>40%), with a percentage of these individuals displaying more pronounced impairments in empathy (20%) and ToM (22%). Social cognition dispersion did not differ between groups. No significant correlations were found between social cognitive domains and mood, sleep, and neurocognitive outcomes.
Significant group-level social cognition deficits were observed in the premanifest HD cohort. However, our profiling method showed that only a small percentage of these individuals experienced marked difficulties in social cognition, indicating the importance of individual-level assessments, particularly regarding future personalised treatments.
Recently developed quantitative models of psychopathology (i.e., Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology) identify an Antagonistic Externalizing spectrum that captures the psychological disposition toward criminal and antisocial behavior. The purpose of the present study was to examine relations between Antagonistic psychopathology (and associated Five-Factor model Antagonism/Agreeableness) and neural functioning related to social-cognitive Theory of Mind using a large sample (N = 973) collected as part of the Human Connectome Project (Van Essen et al., 2013a). No meaningful relations between Antagonism/Antagonistic Externalizing and Theory of Mind-related neural activity or synchrony were observed (p < .005). We conclude by outlining methodological considerations (e.g., validity of social cognition task and low test–retest reliability of functional biomarkers) that may account for these null results, and present recommendations for future research.
Social cognition (SC) comprises an array of cognitive and affective abilities such as social perception, theory of mind, empathy, and social behavior. Previous studies have suggested the existence of deficits in several SC abilities in Parkinson disease (PD), although not unanimously.
The aim of this study is to assess the SC construct and to explore its relationship with cognitive state in PD patients.
We compare 19 PD patients with cognitive decline, 27 cognitively preserved PD patients, and 29 healthy control (HC) individuals in social perception (static and dynamic emotional facial recognition), theory of mind, empathy, and social behavior tasks. We also assess processing speed, executive functions, memory, language, and visuospatial ability.
PD patients with cognitive decline perform worse than the other groups in both facial expression recognition tasks and theory of mind. Cognitively preserved PD patients only score worse than HCs in the static facial expression recognition task. We find several significant correlations between each of the SC deficits and diverse cognitive processes.
The results indicate that some components of SC are impaired in PD patients. These problems seem to be related to a global cognitive decline rather than to specific deficits. Considering the importance of these abilities for social interaction, we suggest that SC be included in the assessment protocols in PD.
What do we mean when we say things like 'If only we knew what he was up to!' Clearly this is more than just a message, or a question to our addressee. We are expressing simultaneously that we don't know, and also that we wish to know. Several modes of encoding contribute to such modalities of expression: word order, subordinating subjunctions, sentences that are subordinated but nevertheless occur autonomously, and attitudinal discourse adverbs which, far beyond lexical adverbials of modality, allow the speaker and the listener to presuppose full agreement, partial agreement under presupposed conditions, or negotiation of common ground. This state of the art survey proposes a new model of modality, drawing on data from a variety of Germanic and Slavic languages to find out what is cross-linguistically universal about modality, and to argue that it is a constitutive part of human cognition.
Research on the capacity to understand others’ minds has tended to focus on representations of beliefs, which are widely taken to be among the most central and basic theory of mind representations. Representations of knowledge, by contrast, have received comparatively little attention and have often been understood as depending on prior representations of belief. After all, how could one represent someone as knowing something if one doesn't even represent them as believing it? Drawing on a wide range of methods across cognitive science, we ask whether belief or knowledge is the more basic kind of representation. The evidence indicates that non-human primates attribute knowledge but not belief, that knowledge representations arise earlier in human development than belief representations, that the capacity to represent knowledge may remain intact in patient populations even when belief representation is disrupted, that knowledge (but not belief) attributions are likely automatic, and that explicit knowledge attributions are made more quickly than equivalent belief attributions. Critically, the theory of mind representations uncovered by these various methods exhibit a set of signature features clearly indicative of knowledge: they are not modality-specific, they are factive, they are not just true belief, and they allow for representations of egocentric ignorance. We argue that these signature features elucidate the primary function of knowledge representation: facilitating learning from others about the external world. This suggests a new way of understanding theory of mind—one that is focused on understanding others’ minds in relation to the actual world, rather than independent from it.
This chapter examines the relationship between mental state reasoning skills and imagination; specifically how and why children who create imaginary companions (ICs) differ in these skills from children who do not have imaginary playmates. This chapter introduces mental state reasoning, and explains its links to imagination and other variables, while exploring how this construct is measured. It then moves on to investigate IC play and consider how a child’s creation of a pretend mind is thought to improve his or her ability to reason about real minds. The chapter also includes a short history of the imaginary companion, as well as an overview of how science has viewed this construct, a clarification of what type of play is classified as IC play, and which groups of children might be more likely to play with these entities. Toward the end of the chapter, research on mental state reasoning and IC status is reviewed, and theoretical viewpoints on why these children excel in mental state reasoning are laid out. The chapter closes with a discussion of future explorations for this field in terms of causal direction and new forms of therapeutic play intervention.
Bipolar disorder (BD) is associated with social cognition (SC) impairments even during remission periods although a large heterogeneity has been described. Our aim was to explore the existence of different profiles on SC in euthymic patients with BD, and further explore the potential impact of distinct variables on SC.
Hierarchical cluster analysis was conducted using three SC domains [Theory of Mind (ToM), Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Attributional Bias (AB)]. The sample comprised of 131 individuals, 71 patients with BD and 60 healthy control subjects who were compared in terms of SC performance, demographic, clinical, and neurocognitive variables. A logistic regression model was used to estimate the effect of SC-associated risk factors.
A two-cluster solution was identified with an adjusted-performance group (N = 48, 67.6%) and a low-performance group (N = 23, 32.4%) with mild deficits in ToM and AB domains and with moderate difficulties in EI. Patients with low SC performance were mostly males, showed lower estimated IQ, higher subthreshold depressive symptoms, longer illness duration, and poorer visual memory and attention. Low estimated IQ (OR 0.920, 95% CI 0.863–0.981), male gender (OR 5.661, 95% CI 1.473–21.762), and longer illness duration (OR 1.085, 95% CI 1.006–1.171) contributed the most to the patients clustering. The model explained up to 35% of the variance in SC performance.
Our results confirmed the existence of two discrete profiles of SC among BD. Nearly two-thirds of patients exhibited adjusted social cognitive abilities. Longer illness duration, male gender, and lower estimated IQ were associated with low SC performance.
Although preserving social relationships plays a critical role in successful aging, a large body of work has shown that the size of older adults’ social networks declines with age. This decline could reflect older adults’ increased desire to preserve their emotional well-being (having greater positive than negative affect). However, because emotional well-being is associated with longer lifespans whereas having smaller social networks is not, other factors may contribute to older adults’ declining network. This chapter reviews one such possibility: age-related declines in social cognition. Core social cognitive functions that play an integral role in developing and maintaining social relationships – understanding the mental states of others, emotion recognition, inhibiting socially inappropriate responses, and prejudice reduction – are impaired in aging populations. This chapter reviews each of these, and considers how they might influence older adults’ ability to develop and maintain high-quality social networks.