• Affective theory of mind inferences contextually influence the recognition of emotional facial expressions

      Stewart, Suzanne L. K.; Schepman, Astrid; Haigh, Matthew; McHugh, Rhian; Stewart, Andrew; University of Chester; Northumbria University; University of Manchester (Taylor & Francis, 2018-03-14)
      The recognition of emotional facial expressions is often subject to contextual influence, particularly when the face and the context convey similar emotions. We investigated whether spontaneous, incidental affective theory of mind inferences made while reading vignettes describing social situations would produce context effects on the identification of same-valenced emotions (Experiment 1) as well as differently-valenced emotions (Experiment 2) conveyed by subsequently presented faces. Crucially, we found an effect of context on reaction times in both experiments while, in line with previous work, we found evidence for a context effect on accuracy only in Experiment 1. This demonstrates that affective theory of mind inferences made at the pragmatic level of a text can automatically, contextually influence the perceptual processing of emotional facial expressions in a separate task even when those emotions are of a distinctive valence. Thus, our novel findings suggest that language acts as a contextual influence to the recognition of emotional facial expressions for both same and different valences.
    • Deception Detection and Truth Detection Are Dependent on Different Cognitive and Emotional Traits: An Investigation of Emotional Intelligence, Theory of Mind, and Attention

      Stewart, Suzanne L. K.; Atherton, Catherine; Wright Whelan, Clea; University of Chester; Bangor University (Sage, 2018-09-28)
      Despite evidence that variation exists between individuals in high-stakes truth and deception detection accuracy rates, little work has investigated what differences in individuals’ cognitive and emotional abilities contribute to this variation. Our study addressed this question by examining the role played by cognitive and affective theory of mind (ToM), emotional intelligence (EI), and various aspects of attention (alerting, orienting, executive control) in explaining variation in accuracy rates among 115 individuals [87 women; mean age = 27.04 years (SD = 11.32)] who responded to video clips of truth-tellers and liars in real-world, high-stakes contexts. Faster attentional alerting supported truth detection, and better cognitive ToM and perception of emotion (an aspect of EI) supported deception detection. This evidence indicates that truth and deception detection are distinct constructs supported by different abilities. Future research may address whether interventions targeting these cognitive and emotional traits can also contribute to improving detection skill.
    • Neural Correlates of Theory of Mind Are Preserved in Young Women with Anorexia Nervosa

      Leslie, Monica; Halls, Daniel; Leppanen, Jenni; Sedgewick, Felicity; Smith, Katherine; Hayward, Hannah; Lang, Katie; Fonville, Leon; Simic, Mima; Mandy, William; et al.
      People with anorexia nervosa (AN) commonly exhibit social difficulties, which may be related to problems with understanding the perspectives of others, commonly known as Theory of Mind (ToM) processing. However, there is a dearth of literature investigating the neural basis of these differences in ToM and at what age they emerge. This study aimed to test for differences in the neural correlates of ToM processes in young women with AN, and young women weight-restored from AN, as compared to healthy control participants (HC). Based on previous findings in AN, we hypothesised that young women with current or prior AN, as compared to HCs, would exhibit a reduced neural response in the medial prefrontal cortex, the inferior frontal gyrus, and the temporo-parietal junction whilst completing a ToM task. We recruited 73 young women with AN, 45 weight-restored young women, and 70 young women without a history of AN to take part in the current study. Whilst undergoing a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan, participants completed the Frith-Happé task, which is a commonly-used measure of ToM with demonstrated reliability and validity in adult populations. In this task, participants viewed the movements of triangles, which depicted either action movements, simple interactions, or complex social interactions. Viewing trials with more complex social interactions in the Frith-Happé task was associated with increased brain activation in regions including the right temporo-parietal junction, the bilateral medial prefrontal cortex, the cerebellum, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. There were no group differences in neural activation in response to the ToM contrast. Overall, these results suggest that the neural basis of spontaneous mentalising is preserved in most young women with AN.
    • Predictors of individual differences in emerging adult theory of mind

      Stewart, Suzanne L. K.; Kirkham, Julie A.; University of Chester (SAGE, 2020-05-21)
      Little is known about what factors are associated with emerging adult theory of mind (ToM). We predicted that childhood fantasy play (CFP), need for cognition (NfC), and fiction reading would be positive predictors due to their deliberative, perspective-taking nature while engagement with media and technology would be a negative predictor due to increased interpersonal distance. The best-fit mixed logit model (n = 369) showed that CFP, texting frequency, and NfC were significant positive predictors while smartphone usage and preference for task switching were significant negative predictors. Email and phone call usage were contributing non-significant negative predictors. Our study extends previous findings regarding NfC, and highlights the importance of CFP engagement for ToM beyond immediate childhood. Future research should investigate how subtly different media (e.g., texting vs smartphone use) have differential predictive relationships with social cognition. Data and code are available at doi: 10.17605/OSF.IO/CBD9J.