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Assessing social cognition in patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls using the reading the mind in the eyes test (RMET): a systematic review and meta-regression.

Psychological Medicine 2024 January 5
The reading the mind in the eyes test (RMET) - which assesses the theory of mind component of social cognition - is often used to compare social cognition between patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls. There is, however, no systematic review integrating the results of these studies. We identified 198 studies published before July 2020 that administered RMET to patients with schizophrenia or healthy controls from three English-language and two Chinese-language databases. These studies included 41 separate samples of patients with schizophrenia (total n = 1836) and 197 separate samples of healthy controls (total n = 23 675). The pooled RMET score was 19.76 (95% CI 18.91-20.60) in patients and 25.53 (95% CI 25.19-25.87) in controls ( z = 12.41, p < 0.001). After excluding small-sample outlier studies, this difference in RMET performance was greater in studies using non-English v. English versions of RMET (Chi [Q] = 8.54, p < 0.001). Meta-regression analyses found a negative association of age with RMET score and a positive association of years of schooling with RMET score in both patients and controls. A secondary meta-analysis using a spline construction of 180 healthy control samples identified a non-monotonic relationship between age and RMET score - RMET scores increased with age before 31 and decreased with age after 31. These results indicate that patients with schizophrenia have substantial deficits in theory of mind compared with healthy controls, supporting the construct validity of RMET as a measure of social cognition. The different results for English versus non-English versions of RMET and the non-monotonic relationship between age and RMET score highlight the importance of the language of administration of RMET and the possibility that the relationship of aging with theory of mind is different from the relationship of aging with other types of cognitive functioning.

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