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Psychophysiological Correlates of Affective and Cognitive Theory of Mind

Research suggests that Theory of Mind (ToM) ability is impaired in depression. The present research aims to further establish if there is a deficit in ToM among people who have depressive tendencies. However, this cannot be elucidated unless several methodological issues in the field are addressed. Firstly, it is not clear whether there are differing psychophysiological correlates of affective and cognitive ToM and whether both components are impaired (in depression). Secondly, psychophysiological research exploring ToM has had limited methodology such that only one physiological measure has been used. Thirdly, it is unclear whether gender differences account for differing scores in ToM measures among both a healthy and depressed sample. The proposed research aims to address these limitations by conducting three studies. Study 1 will explore the effect of ToM tasks on psychophysiological response and whether the effect of ToM tasks on psychophysiological response varies according to the measure of psychophysiological response (skin conductance response and heart rate). Study two will examine whether the psychophysiological correlates of ToM, and ToM scores, are different between males and females. Study three will examine whether affective and cognitive ToM corresponds to different levels in emotional reactivity, among people who score high on a depression scale. Participants will be recruited via Edith Cowan University, Joondalup Campus and the wider community. MANOVA will be conducted for study 1 and ANOVA’s will be carried out for study 2 and 3. The findings may offer support for the notion that the psychophysiological correlates of affective and cognitive ToM are different, providing evidence that ToM is not a unitary construct. Further, the findings will contribute to the existing ToM and depression literature by shedding light on the emotional reactivity profile of this population, whilst they are engaged in ToM processing. This is clinically significant because the findings may reveal that people with high depressive symptoms have a different emotional reactivity profile to healthy controls.

Funding agency

ECU

Completion

December 2014


Researchers

Samantha Shooter (PhD)
Dr Rodrigo Becerra
Dr Craig Harms

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