Facial Affect Recognition and Theory of Mind in Schizophrenia


Deficits of facial affect recognition are associated with schizophrenia, as is the ability to infer others’ beliefs (“Theory of Mind”). French researchers compared 20 patients with schizophrenia diagnoses with 30 matched controls, finding that recognition of facial emotions was associated with the attribution of beliefs. Results appear in Encephale.

Abstract → 

Besche-Richard, C., Bourrin-Tisseron, A., et al; “Recognition of facial emotions and theory of mind in schizophrenia: Could the theory of mind deficit be due to the non-recognition of facial emotions?” Encephale, June 2012; 38(3) 241-7

Related Items:
The emotional paradox: Dissociation between explicit and implicit processing of emotional prosody in schizophrenia
Social Cognition: The Key Factor Predicting Social Outcome in People with Schizophrenia?


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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. The Face: A Critical Component of a Social Engagement System:

    •Unlike reptiles, the mammalian nervous
    system needs a “caregiver” to survive and
    signals the caregiver via the muscles of the
    face and head.
    •The face is “hardwired” to the neural
    regulation of visceral state via a mammalian
    “neural circuit.”
    •Physical and mental illness retract the
    “mammalian” neural circuit with the resultant
    symptoms of a face that does not work.

    My Child’s Face Does Not Work!

    When Other Faces Do Not Work!

    A New Paradigm?
    • If social behaviors are not learned, are they
    emergent properties of specific neurophysological
    • If dysfunctional social behavior is a spontaneously
    occurring emergent property of the nervous system
    (i.e., part of a feedback loop), could intervention
    strategies be focused on manipulating or supporting
    the neurophysiological states (e.g., engaging and
    exercising feedback loops) from which social
    behavior would spontaneously occur?
    © 2003 Stephen W. Porges.

    For well over a year now I’ve writing about how this man’s discovery of a third branch to our auto nervous system, is as revolutionary as Darwin’s famous theory.

    Sadly the recovery movement has been so hurt by science, it seems to believe that all research into the human condition is funded by PHARMA? Yet Stephen Porges Listening project is getting amazing results with autistic individuals, and is a non-invasive method of natural stimulation.

    “The Polyvagal Theory,” is the new paradigm in mental health. We all know that compassionate social support works. That genuine human empathy has a trans-formative effect.

    The Polyvagal Theory, can show the left-brained academics in psychiatry the certainty they need, to move away from the failing paradigm of the chemical cosh, intervention.

    Please, please, read this brilliant mans work.

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  2. My nickname in childhood was “million faces”, because I rarely ever spoke to tell people how I felt or what I thought. I would just make a face at them. My parent was violent and I wasn’t allowed to have needs or feelings. Through her gnashed teeth she would command: “get that look off your face or I’ll wipe it off for you”, crap like that.

    Million Faces. What a reminder. I haven’t thought about that for a while. In my opinion, most people are incompetent at recognizing facial expressions.

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