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Revue de neuropsychologie

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Theory of mind and executive functions in pathology Volume 6, issue 4, Octobre-Novembre-Décembre 2014

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Authors
1 Aix-Marseille Université,
CNRS, LPL UMR 7309,
5, avenue Pasteur,
13100, Aix-en-Provence, France
2 Centre hospitalier du Pays d’Aix,
Service de neurologie,
avenue des Tamaris,
13616, Aix-en-Provence, France
* Correspondance

Theory of mind (ToM) refers to the ability to infer other's mental states, that is to say their beliefs, intentions, knowledge or emotions. ToM is a high-level function which enables to conduct social relationships and to adapt our behavior in social interactions. Some authors propose that ToM would rely on several cognitive mechanisms, from low-level processes involved in the analysis of perceptual cues available in the environment, to high-level processes, as executive functions, necessary to the representation of other's point of view. However, the relationships existing between ToM and executive functions stay unclear, and if several evidences from studies in pathological populations suggest such a relationship, its nature is not well-defined. In this paper, we propose to present results in favor of an involvement of executive functions in ToM and to discuss more specifically the role of inhibition and shifting in the ability to put away one's own perspective in order to attribute mental states to others.