Thinking about Others’ Minds: Mental State Inference in Boys with Conduct Problems and Callous-Unemotional Traits

Ruth Roberts*, Eamon McCrory, Geoffrey Bird, Molly Sharp, Linda Roberts, Essi Viding

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Children with conduct problems (CP) and high levels of callous-unemotional traits (CP/HCU) have been found to have an intact ability to represent other minds, however, they behave in ways that indicate a reduced propensity to consider other people’s thoughts and feelings. Here we report findings from three tasks assessing different aspects of mentalising in 81 boys aged 11–16 [Typically developing (TD) n = 27; CP/HCU n = 28; CP and low levels of callous-unemotional traits (CP/LCU) n = 26]. Participants completed the Movie Assessment of Social Cognition (MASC), a task assessing ability/propensity to incorporate judgements concerning an individual’s mind into mental state inference; provided a written description of a good friend to assess mind-mindedness; and completed the Social Judgement Task (SJT), a new measure assessing mentalising about antisocial actions. Boys with CP/HCU had more difficulty in accurately inferring others’ mental states in the MASC than TD and CP/LCU boys. There were no group differences in the number of mind-related comments as assessed by the mind-mindedness protocol or in responses to the SJT task. These findings suggest that although the ability to represent mental states is intact, CP/HCU boys are less likely to update mental state inferences as a function of different minds.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2020

Keywords

  • Adolescent males
  • Callous-unemotional traits
  • Conduct problems
  • Mentalising

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