Can patients with schizophrenia have good mentalizing skills? Disentangling heterogeneity of theory of mind.

Objective: Theory of Mind (ToM) is a multifaceted construct that involves mental states attribution in social interactions. Patients with schizophrenia are impaired in ToM abilities, but recent studies showed that a non-negligible number of patients perform within normal ranges or close to normal, whereas other patients are very impaired in ToM tasks. The present study aims to comprehensively analyze differences between patients with “poor” and “fair” mentalizing abilities, as identified through a median-split procedure on mental state attribution task, and healthy controls, as well as to explore the role of clinical, demographical, and neurocognitive predictors of ToM performance within groups. Method: One hundred twenty-two patients with schizophrenia and 67 healthy controls were assessed for ToM, attention, and executive functioning. In addition, patients’ daily functioning and psychopathological profiles were also rated. Results: “Fair” mentalizers perform significantly better than “poor” mentalizers on cognitive abilities and quality of life and they differ from healthy controls in neurocognition and cognitive ToM performance, even though the global ToM performance is similar. Furthermore, regression models showed distinct contributing factors in each sub group: ToM is related to neurocognitive abilities and education in healthy subjects, while it is mainly associated with attention in “fair” group and it is related to clinical variables and executive functions in “poor” mentalizers. Conclusions: Although preliminary, these data shed new light on the heterogeneity of ToM deficit among patients with schizophrenia and could reflect on daily clinical practice, as they are important to develop individualized step-by-step rehabilitative programs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)