Differences in the Theory of Mind profiles of patients with anorexia nervosa and individuals on the autism spectrum: A meta-analytic review

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HighlightsMeta-analytic review of theory of mind in AN and ASD compared to HCs.Performance was worse in AN and ASD relative to HC in all areas of theory of mind.Compared to AN, autistic people performed worse on emotional theory of mind.AN and ASD performed similarly in understanding simple social interactions and implicit social attribution.Potential processes underlying theory of mind profile in AN and ASD are discussed.Background:This meta-analytic review examines the theory of mind profiles in both patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) and autistic individuals.Methodology:The studies examining theory of mind were divided into the following categories: emotional theory of mind, understanding simple social situations, understanding complex social interactions, and implicit social attribution. All included studies investigated differences between healthy control (HCs) individuals and people with AN or autistic people. Differences in theory of mind profile between people with AN and autistic people were explored by conducting moderator analyses.Results:People with AN and autistic people showed a similar theory of mind profile, but autistic individuals showed greater difficulties, particularly in emotional theory of mind.Conclusions:Although both people with AN and autistic people have significant difficulties in all aspects of theory of mind relative to the HCs, some differences in the underlying profile may be present. However, due to relative paucity of theory of mind research among people with AN, further research is still needed before firm conclusion can be drawn.

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