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Schizophr Bull. 2005 Jan;31(1):21-42. Epub 2005 Feb 16.

"Theory of mind" in schizophrenia: a review of the literature.

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  • 1Center for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Bochum, Alexandrinenstr. 1-3, D-44791 Bochum, Germany.


The term theory of mind (ToM) refers to the capacity to infer one's own and other persons' mental states. A substantial body of research has highlighted the evolution of ToM in nonhuman primates, its emergence during human ontogeny, and impaired ToM in a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. There is good empirical evidence that ToM is specifically impaired in schizophrenia and that many psychotic symptoms-for instance, delusions of alien control and persecution, the presence of thought and language disorganization, and other behavioral symptoms-may best be understood in light of a disturbed capacity in patients to relate their own intentions to executing behavior, and to monitor others' intentions. However, it is still under debate how an impaired ToM in schizophrenia is associated with other aspects of cognition, how the impairment fluctuates with acuity or chronicity of the schizophrenic disorder, and how this affects the patients' use of language and social behavior. In addition to these potential research areas, future studies may also address whether patients could benefit from cognitive training in this domain.

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