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Aspects of social cognition in anorexia nervosa: Affective and cognitive theory of mind

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-185
Number of pages5
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2009

King's Authors


Although social functioning is clearly impaired in anorexia nervosa (AN), there has been limited empirical assessment of this domain in this illness. This study assesses social cognition in AN by examining performance on two 'theory of mind' (ToM) tasks; Baron-Cohen's "Reading the mind in the Eyes" task (RME) and Happé's cartoon task. These tasks probe affective and cognitive ToM, respectively. Forty-four female participants were recruited (AN N = 22; healthy controls N = 22) and completed both tasks, with concurrent clinical and intellectual functioning assessment. Compared with healthy controls, AN performed significantly worse on both the RME and the Cartoon task (both conditions). The mental state condition did not facilitate performance in the AN group, as it did in the healthy controls. The findings broadly replicate limited previous work [Tchanturia, K., Happé, F., Godley, J., Bara-Carill, N., Treasure, J., Schmidt, U., 2004. Theory of mind in AN. European Eating Disorders Review 12, 361-366] but in addition demonstrate abnormalities on a task requiring affective ToM interpretation. More detailed information about the components of ToM and the ToM difficulties demonstrated in AN sufferers may inform our understanding of the disorder as well as future social-cognitive based treatments.

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