King's College London

Research portal

Similarities and differences in theory of mind responses of patients with anorexia nervosa with and without autistic features

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Article number318
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Issue numberMAY
Early online date8 May 2019
Accepted/In press29 Apr 2019
E-pub ahead of print8 May 2019
PublishedMay 2019


King's Authors


Theory of Mind (ToM) is the ability to understand and represent mental states of others, a skill that plays a key role in how we interact with people around us. Difficulties with ToM have been posited as an underlying mechanism for autism and implicated in difficulties faced by those with anorexia nervosa (AN). This study examined, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the responses of women between the ages of 14 and 25 years on the Frith-Happé Triangle Animations, a well-validated test of ToM. Participants were split into healthy controls (HCs), AN patients (AN), and AN patients with high levels of autistic features (AN+ASF). We found no significant quantitative differences between groups in performance on the task. Qualitatively, there were differences between groups such that AN patients, especially those in the AN+ASF group, were more focused on describing the videos than creating narratives, were more negative in their interpretations, and were much more anxious about their performance. These qualitative differences have clinical implications, including that not all AN patients with autistic features should be assumed to have difficulties with ToM.

Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454