Mentalization and Development:

Examining the relationships between adolescent mentalizing, theory of mind, and neuropsychological function

Justin Wareham

Supervisor: Dr Marc Potenza

Course: MSc in Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology 

This research project aimed to understand the relationship between mentalization, a psychoanalytic concept describing one’s ability to internally represent both one’s own and another’s mental states, and both theory of mind and neuropsychological function. A group of 32 adolescents (16 females and 13 males) ages 14 to 17 years were administered the:

  • Mentalization Stories Test for Adolescents (MSTA),
  • the Reading Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET),

    and these measures were compared to scores on the

  • Behavioral Inhibition System / Behavioral Approach System (BIS/BAS) Scales,
  • Brief Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF),
  • Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF).

A significant relationship between mentalizing (MSTA) scores and theory of mind (RMET) scores was found. MSTA scores were positively correlated with BAS scores and both expressive and receptive language scores of the CELF.

Females on average scored significantly higher than males on both the MSTA and RMET. Results were discussed around the construct validity of the MSTA and gender differences in the ability for mental state representation.

Publication:

Potenza, M. N., Wareham, J. F., Steinberg, M. A., Rugle, L., Cavallo, D. A., Krishnan-Sarin, S., & Desai, R. A. (2011). Correlates of at-risk/probleminternet gambling in adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 50, 150-159.