Hyper-Theory-of-Mind in Children with Psychotic Experiences

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Lars Clemmensen, Jim van Os, Anne Mette Skovgaard, Mette Væver, Els M A Blijd-Hoogewys, Agna A Bartels-Velthuis, Pia Jeppesen

BACKGROUND: Alterations in Theory-of-Mind (ToM) are associated with psychotic disorder. In addition, studies in children have documented that alterations in ToM are associated with Psychotic Experiences (PE). Our aim was to examine associations between an exaggerated type of ToM (HyperToM) and PE in children. Children with this type of alteration in ToM infer mental states when none are obviously suggested, and predict behaviour on the basis of these erroneous beliefs. Individuals with HyperToM do not appear to have a conceptual deficit (i.e. lack of representational abilities), but rather they apply their theory of the minds of others in an incorrect or biased way.

METHOD: Hypotheses were tested in two studies with two independent samples: (i) a general population sample of 1630 Danish children aged 11-12 years, (ii) a population-based sample of 259 Dutch children aged 12-13 years, pertaining to a case-control sampling frame of children with auditory verbal hallucinations. Multinomial regression analyses were carried out to investigate the associations between PE and ToM and HyperToM respectively. Analyses were adjusted for gender and proxy measures of general intelligence.

RESULTS: Low ToM score was significantly associated with PE in sample I (OR = 1.6 95%CI 1.1-2.3 χ2(4) = 12.42 p = 0.010), but not in sample II (OR = 0.9 95%CI 0.5-1.8 χ2(3) = 7.13 p = 0.816). HyperToM was significantly associated with PE both in sample I (OR = 1.8, 95%CI 1.2-2.7 χ2(3) = 10.11 p = 0.006) and II (OR = 4.6, 95%CI 1.3-16.2 χ2(2) = 7.56 p = 0.018). HyperToM was associated particularly with paranoid delusions in both sample I (OR = 2.0, 95%CI: 1.1-3.7% χ2(4) = 9.93 p = 0.021) and II (OR = 6.2 95%CI: 1.7-23.6% χ2(4) = 9.90 p = 0.044).

CONCLUSION: Specific alterations in ToM may be associated with specific types of psychotic experiences. HyperToM may index risk for developing psychosis and paranoid delusions in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere113082
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume9
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

ID: 131069788