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An investigation of the interaction between schizotypy and cognitive monitoring processes

Lippett, Rachael; (2004) An investigation of the interaction between schizotypy and cognitive monitoring processes. Doctoral thesis (D.Clin.Psy), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The concept of 'theory of mind' (or mentalising ability) refers to the capacity to attribute mental states to others in order to explain what they did, or predict what they will do. The role of theory of mind has been extensively researched in relation to autism and is thought to explain some of the social and communication abnormalities that are present in the disorder. C. Frith (1992) broadened the definition of mentalising to include the ability to represent one's own as well as others actions, and suggested that all of the commonly observed symptoms of schizophrenia could be understood as a result of a breakdown in the person's capacity to mentalise. The research presented in this thesis aimed to assess Frith's theory by comparing individuals who were found to be high and low in schizotypy. It was hypothesised that individuals who demonstrated high scores on measures of schizotypy would show poorer ability to generate willed action, and to monitor their own, and others mental states. Mentalising abilities were assessed using four tasks: in the triangles task participants watched a series of computerised animations involving two shapes which engaged in increasingly complex sequences of interaction. Participants were asked to describe what they thought was taking place and their descriptions were used to assess their ability to employ theory of mind in relation to others. Participants then completed the me-pulse; a novel task which involved a variant on the prepulse inhibition paradigm; the Hayling test, and a go/No go task. The results broadly supported Frith's theory. On the triangles task, the high schizotypes imputed 'theory of mind' significantly more than low schizotypes when the shapes were moving randomly. On the Hayling test high schizotypy participants took significantly longer to complete both parts of the test than the low schizotypes. On the go/No go task, the high schizotypy group made significantly more false alarms, indicating deficits in their ability to set shift and inhibit their responses. On the me-pulse task the low schizotypy participants showed a decrease in magnitude of response when the startling stimulus was self-initiated, in contrast the high schizotypy participants actually showed increased response amplitude in response to self-generated stimuli. Taken together, these results indicated support for the hypothesis that high schizotypes showed deficits in their ability to generate willed action, and to monitor the mental states of both others and themselves. The marked difference in the pattern of results between the two groups of participants provides further support for the concept of schizotypy. The fact that these anomalies in mentalising ability are seen in a non psychiatric population indicated some support for the idea of mentalising defects as a trait marker for psychosis, rather than simply a manifestation of the psychotic state.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: D.Clin.Psy
Title: An investigation of the interaction between schizotypy and cognitive monitoring processes
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Psychology; Schizotypy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099590
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