A Meta-Analysis of Mentalizing Impairments in Adults With Schizophrenia and Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Mentalizing has been examined both in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia (SCZ) primarily by either cognitive-linguistic (referred to as verbal) or emotion recognition from eyes (referred to as visual) mentalizing tasks. Each type of task is thought to measure different aspects of mentalizing. Differences in clinical features and developmental courses of each disorder may predict distinct patterns of mentalizing performance across dis orders on each type of task. To test this, a meta-analysis was conducted using 37 studies that assessed mentalizing either verbally or visually in adults with SCZ or ASD. We found that the estimated effect sizes of impairments in verbal and visual mentalizing tasks for both clinical groups were statistically large and at a similar level (overall Hedges’ g = 0.73-1.05). For each disorder, adults with SCZ showed a trend towards larger impairments on verbal (overall Hedges’ g = 0.99) than on visual mentalizing task (overall Hedges’ g = 0.73; Qbet = 3.45, p =.06, df =1). Adults with ASD did not show different levels of impairment on the verbal versus visual tasks (Qbet = 0.08, p =.78, df =1). These results suggest that both clinical groups share, at least in part, some common cognitive processing deficits associated with mentalizing impairments.

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