A Meta-analysis of Theory of Mind in Alcohol Use Disorders

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Abstract

Aim

Research into Theory of Mind (ToM) in alcohol use disorder (AUD) is sparse and the extant findings contradictory. The objective of this paper was to conduct a meta-analysis to determine whether individuals with AUD show ToM deficits across the available published literature.

Method

A comprehensive literature search was performed with the PsychInfo, PubMed and Web Science databases for studies from 1990 to March 2015, pairing the keywords ‘alcohol’ and ‘theory of mind’. Results were filtered and eight studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in the final meta-analysis.

Results

Results showed that individuals with AUD (n = 187) displayed reduced ToM compared to controls (n = 187). Hedges' g was −1.62 [(−2.28, −0.96), SE = 0.66, P < 0.01], which is indicative of a large effect size. The percentage of males had a significant impact on the effect size, Q = 7.90, P = 0.005, while IQ and level of education did not.

Conclusions

Results of this study suggest that AUD may be associated with impaired understanding of others' intentions and emotions, which can leave an individual vulnerable to misinterpreting social cues. Clinical care implications of the findings, limitations of the study, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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