Mentalizing Mediates the Relationship Between Psychopathy and Type of Aggression in Schizophrenia

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Abstract

Convincing evidence demonstrates that psychopathy is associated with premeditated aggression. However, studies have failed to explain why this association exists and whether socio-cognitive functions, such as mentalizing, could explain the relation. This cross-sectional study investigates, in 108 patients with schizophrenia, the association of psychopathy and mentalizing abilities with premeditated and impulsive aggression and probes the nature of their influence on these specific aggression patterns. Patients’ engagement in premeditated aggression was associated with diminishing mentalizing and increasing psychopathic tendencies. Moreover, mediation analyses reveal that the ability to attribute mental states to others mediates the relation between psychopathy and type of aggression. This mediation is facilitated by a specific mentalizing profile characterized by the presence of intact cognitive and deficient emotional mentalizing capacities. This study is the first to report a mediating effect of mentalizing on the relationship between psychopathy and type of aggression in schizophrenia. Implications of these results are discussed.

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