Psychotically driven aggression is associated with greater mentalizing challenges in psychotic spectrum disorders [2020]

Some aggressive acts committed by individuals with psychotic spectrum disorders (PSD) are understandable in the context of interpersonal conflict or goal attainment, yet others are unpredictable, arising from delusions or hallucinations (psychotically driven aggressive acts, PDA). It is unknown if there are underlying differences in cognitive or perceptive social cognition in relation to aggression motivation in PSD.

We compared differences in social cognition performance between 49 individuals with PSD who had committed PDA with those exhibiting other types of aggression (n = 31) (non-PDA) and to community controls (n = 81) on the Swedish version of Double Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition – Multiple Choice (DMASC-MC). Participants with PSD had more than 3 months of clinical stability and substance use abstention and stable antipsychotic medication doses. General intellectual ability was assessed with the information and matrix reasoning subtests of the Wechsler Intelligence Scales.

The PSD group with a history of PDA exhibited lower total and perceptive social cognition scores on the DMASC-MC than the non-PDA group and controls. In addition, they also showed lower cognitive scores compared to typical controls. Lower total scores were associated with lower scores on Wechsler intelligence subtests information and matrix reasoning. Taking this into account, the PDA group still had lower social cognition scores. There were no associations of antipsychotic medication dosages, positive or negative symptoms with social cognition scores. Higher antipsychotic dosage at the time of DMASC-MC testing and social cognition scores predicted a past history of PDA.

We conclude that impaired social cognition, particularly perceptive social cognition, is associated with PDA in individuals with PSD.

Anette GM Johansson, Malin Källman, Lennart Högman, Marianne Kristiansson, Håkan Fischer & Sven Bölte
BMC Psychiatry, volume 20, Article number: 470 (2020)