Elevated emotional reactivity in affective but not cognitive components of theory of mind: a psychophysiological study.
Recent research proposes that theory of mind (ToM), that is the ability to infer other people's mental state, is a multidimensional construct and that a distinction may be made between affective and cognitive ToM. We examined whether these two subcomponents of ToM correspond to different levels in skin conductance responses (SCRs). Seventeen healthy adults listened to ten affective (faux pas) ToM stories, ten cognitive ToM stories and ten non-ToM stories. Results demonstrated significantly elevated SCR for affective ToM as compared with cognitive ToM and control stories, with no differences in SCR levels in the latter two story types. We discuss the possible underlying mechanisms for these differential psychophysiological correlates of affective and cognitive ToM processing, and suggest further investigations especially in clinical populations.
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