Cognitive theories of religion have postulated several cognitive biases that predispose human minds towards religious belief. However, to date, these hypotheses have not been tested simultaneously and in relation to each other, using an individual difference approach. We used a path model to assess the extent to which several interacting cognitive tendencies, namely mentalizing, mind body dualism, teleological thinking, and anthropomorphism, as well as cultural exposure to religion, predict belief in God, paranormal beliefs and belief in life's purpose. Our model, based on two independent samples (N=492 and N=920) found that the previously known relationship between mentalizing and belief is mediated by individual differences in dualism, and to a lesser extent by teleological thinking. Anthropomorphism was unrelated to religious belief, but was related to paranormal belief. Cultural exposure to religion (mostly Christianity) was negatively related to anthropomorphism, and was unrelated to any of the other cognitive tendencies. These patterns were robust for both men and women, and across at least two ethnic identifications. The data were most consistent with a path model suggesting that mentalizing comes first, which leads to dualism and teleology, which in turn lead to religious, paranormal, and life's-purpose beliefs. Alternative theoretical models were tested but did not find empirical support.
Individual differences in preschoolers' understanding that human action is caused by internal mental states, or representational theory of mind (RTM), are heritable, as are developmental disorders such as autism in which RTM is particularly impaired. We investigated whether polymorphisms of genes affecting dopamine (DA) utilization and metabolism constitute part of the molecular basis of this heritability. Seventy-three 42- to 54-month-olds were given a battery of RTM tasks along with other task batteries that measured executive functioning and representational understanding more generally. Polymorphisms of the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) were associated with RTM performance such that preschoolers with shorter alleles outperformed those with one or more longer alleles. However, polymorphisms of the catechol-O-methyl transferase gene (COMT) and the dopamine transporter gene (DAT1) genes were not associated with children's RTM performance. Further tests showed that the association between DRD4 allele length and RTM performance was not attributable to a common association with executive functioning or representational understanding more generally. We conclude that DRD4 receptors, likely via their effects on frontal lobe development and functioning, may represent a neuromaturational constraint governing the stereotypical and universal trajectory of RTM development.
Exploring parental mentalization in postnatal phase with a self-report questionnaire (PRFQ): Factor structure, gender differences and association with sociodemographic factors. The Finn Brain Birth Cohort Study.
Finn Brain, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Turku, Finland; Department of Child Psychiatry, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Turku, Finland. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The objective was to explore the preliminary functioning of a self-report questionnaire designed to assess parental reflective functioning (PRFQ, Luyten et al., 2009, unpublished manual) during early postnatal phase and with a large population-based sample. Parental reflective functioning (PRF) refers to parental capacity to focus on experience and feelings, within self, in the child and underlying observed reactions. Individual differences in PRF reportedly affect child attachment and socio-emotional development. Cost-effective tools to assess key areas of early parenting are needed for both research and clinical purposes. The factor structure of a 36-item version suitable for early postnatal phase was explored using population-based data from the Finn Brain Birth Cohort Study (425 mothers and 237 fathers). Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis resulted in a 14-item version comprising four factors capturing relevant aspects of early PRF. The factor structure was further tested with separate participants from the cohort (1030 mothers and 422 fathers). Mothers tended to score higher than fathers in PRF. Among mothers, parity, age, and financial situation were associated with postnatal mentalization. Level of education was associated with postnatal mentalization in both genders. The 14-item PRFQ-Fi has potential to serve as a new screening tool for very early parenting.
The aim of the present study was to describe the development of Families First, a new mentalization-based group intervention model for supporting early parenthood. The general aim of the intervention was to support well-functioning models of parenting and prevent transmission of negative parenting models over generations, and thus promote child development and overall family health.
In the Finnish society, great concern has aroused during the last decade regarding the well-being and mental health of children and adolescents. Increased number of divorces, poverty, substance abuse, and mental health problems among parents enhance the risk for child neglect and abuse. New effective, preventive, and health-promoting intervention tools are greatly needed to support families with young children. At present, the Families First intervention is being implemented in primary social and healthcare units all over Finland.
This article will provide a theoretical understanding of the importance of parental mentalization for the development of the parent-child relationship and the development of the child as well as proposed mechanisms of actions in order to enhance mentalizing capacity. The cultural context will be described. The article will also provide a description of the scientific evaluation protocol of the intervention model. Finally, possible limitations and challenges of the intervention model are discussed.
Cites: Nurs Health Sci. 2002 Dec;4(4):209-1412406208
This study focuses on the relationship between content elements and mental-state language in narratives from twenty-seven children with autism (ASD), twelve children with language impairment (LI), and thirty typically developing children (TD). The groups did not differ on chronological age (10;6-14;0) and non-verbal cognitive skills, and the groups with ASD and TD did not differ on language measures. The children with ASD and LI had fewer content elements of the storyline than the TD children. Compared with the TD children, the children with ASD used fewer subordinate clauses about the characters' thoughts, and preferred talking about mental states as reported speech, especially in the form of direct speech. The children with LI did not differ from the TD children on these measures. The results are discussed in the context of difficulties with socio-cognition in children with ASD and of language difficulties in children with LI.
Mental states refer to the quality of one's capacity to mentally elaborate and open up to his or her subjective experience. The Mental States Task (MST) was developed to evaluate individual differences relative to this capacity.
Using the MST, participants described a story from an emotionally challenging image and responded to a set of items about their cognitive and emotional processes while completing the task. The validation of the French version of the MST comprises two samples: 264 undergraduate/graduate students with a mean age of 27.27 years (Sample 1), and 206 students with a mean age of 26.61 years (Sample 2). The validation of the English version of the MST also includes two samples: 110 undergraduate students with a mean age of 20.15 years (Sample 3) and 188 students with a mean age of 20.90 years (Sample 4).
Results suggest that 6 mental states can be distinguished and that the MST presents an adequate factorial structure, in both its French and English versions. The MST scores were associated with mental state scores derived from a content analysis method and with other related constructs (e.g., authenticity, empathy).
Overall, findings provide convincing evidence of validity and reliability for the MST as an assessment tool of mental states. This innovative measure is likely to facilitate the clinical and empirical investigation of mentalization.
The capacity to interpret others people's behavior and mental states is a vital part of human social communication. This ability, also called mentalizing or Theory of Mind (ToM), may also serve as a protective factor against aggression and antisocial behavior. This study investigates the relationship between two measures of psychopathy (clinical assessment and self-report) and the ability to identify mental states from photographs of the eye region. The participants in the study were 92 male inmates at Bergen prison, Norway. The results showed some discrepancy in connection to assessment methodology. For the self-report (SRP-III), we found an overall negative association between mental state discrimination and psychopathy, while for the clinical instrument (PCL-R) the results were more mixed. For Factor 1 psychopathic traits (interpersonal and affective), we found positive associations with discrimination of neutral mental states, but not with the positive or negative mental states. Factor 2 traits (antisocial lifestyle) were found to be negatively associated with discrimination of mental states. The results from this study demonstrate a heterogeneity in the psychopathic construct where psychopathic traits related to an antisocial and impulsive lifestyle are associated with lower ability to recognize others' mental states, while interpersonal and affective psychopathic traits are associated with a somewhat enhanced ability to recognize others' emotional states.
Knowledge on the risk mechanisms of psychotic experiences (PE) is still limited. The aim of this population-based study was to explore developmental markers of PE with a particular focus on the specificity of hyper-theory-of-mind (HyperToM) as correlate of PE as opposed to correlate of any mental disorder.
We assessed 1630 children from the Copenhagen Child Cohort 2000 regarding PE and HyperToM at the follow-up at 11-12 years. Mental disorders were diagnosed by clinical ratings based on standardized parent-, teacher- and self-reported psychopathology. Logistic regression analyses were performed to test the correlates of PE and HyperToM, and the specificity of correlates of PE v. correlates of any Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV) mental disorder.
Univariate analyses showed the following correlates of PE: familial psychiatric liability; parental mental illness during early child development; change in family composition; low family income; regulatory problems in infancy; onset of puberty; bullying; concurrent mental disorder; and HyperToM. When estimating the adjusted effects, only low family income, concurrent mental disorder, bullying and HyperToM remained significantly associated with PE. Further analyses of the specificity of these correlates with regard to outcome revealed that HyperToM was the only variable specifically associated with PE without concurrent mental disorder. Finally, HyperToM did not share any of the investigated precursors with PE.
HyperToM may have a specific role in the risk trajectories of PE, being specifically associated with PE in preadolescent children, independently of other family and child risk factors associated with PE and overall psychopathology at this age.
The first aim of our study was to validate the French version of the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test, a theory of mind test. The second aim was to test whether cultural differences modulate performance on this test.
A total of 109 participants completed the original English version and 97 participants completed the French version. Another group of 30 participants completed the French version twice, one week apart.
We report a similar overall distribution of scores in both versions and no differences in the mean scores between them. However, 2 items in the French version did not collect a majority of responses, which differed from the results of the English version. Test-retest showed good stability of the French version. As expected, participants who do not speak French or English at home, and those born in Asia, performed worse than North American participants, and those who speak English or French at home.
We report a French version with acceptable validity and good stability. The cultural differences observed support the idea that Asian culture does not use theory of mind to explain people's behaviours as much as North American people do.
Theory of mind and emotion recognition skills in children with specific language impairment, autism spectrum disorder and typical development: group differences and connection to knowledge of grammatical morphology, word-finding abilities and verbal working memory.
Social perception skills, such as understanding the mind and emotions of others, affect children's communication abilities in real-life situations. In addition to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), there is increasing knowledge that children with specific language impairment (SLI) also demonstrate difficulties in their social perception abilities.
To compare the performance of children with SLI, ASD and typical development (TD) in social perception tasks measuring Theory of Mind (ToM) and emotion recognition. In addition, to evaluate the association between social perception tasks and language tests measuring word-finding abilities, knowledge of grammatical morphology and verbal working memory.
Children with SLI (n = 18), ASD (n = 14) and TD (n = 25) completed two NEPSY-II subtests measuring social perception abilities: (1) Affect Recognition and (2) ToM (includes Verbal and non-verbal Contextual tasks). In addition, children's word-finding abilities were measured with the TWF-2, grammatical morphology by using the Grammatical Closure subtest of ITPA, and verbal working memory by using subtests of Sentence Repetition or Word List Interference (chosen according the child's age) of the NEPSY-II.
Children with ASD scored significantly lower than children with SLI or TD on the NEPSY-II Affect Recognition subtest. Both SLI and ASD groups scored significantly lower than TD children on Verbal tasks of the ToM subtest of NEPSY-II. However, there were no significant group differences on non-verbal Contextual tasks of the ToM subtest of the NEPSY-II. Verbal tasks of the ToM subtest were correlated with the Grammatical Closure subtest and TWF-2 in children with SLI. In children with ASD correlation between TWF-2 and ToM: Verbal tasks was moderate, almost achieving statistical significance, but no other correlations were found.
Both SLI and ASD groups showed difficulties in tasks measuring verbal ToM but differences were not found in tasks measuring non-verbal Contextual ToM. The association between Verbal ToM tasks and language tests was stronger in children with SLI than in children with ASD. There is a need for further studies in order to understand interaction between different areas of language and cognitive development.