Cognitive Processing

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 317–321

Are anxiously attached women better mindreaders?

  • Thomas Hünefeldt
  • Fiorenzo Laghi
  • Francesca Ortu
Short Report

Abstract

This research was aimed at providing first evidence concerning the relationship between adults’ self-reported attachment style and their performance on a standard ‘theory of mind’ task. Based on adult attachment theory, we hypothesized that the two dimensions of self-reported adult attachment, anxiety and avoidance, are differently related to ‘theory of mind,’ and that this relationship is moderated by variables concerning the ‘theory of mind’ stimuli. The ‘Experiences in Close Relationships’ questionnaire and the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ test were administered to 132 young women. In line with our expectations, women’s attachment-related anxiety was associated with better mind reading concerning stimuli that were emotionally neutral or difficult to recognize.

Keywords

Attachment Anxiety Avoidance Theory of mind Women Individual differences 

References

  1. Ahmed FS, Miller LS (2011) Executive function mechanisms of theory of mind. J Autism Dev Disord 41:667–678PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baron-Cohen S, Wheelwright S, Hill J, Raste Y, Plumb I (2001) The ‘reading the eyes in the mind’ test revised version: a study with normal adults, and adults with asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 42:241–251PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bartholomew K, Horowitz L (1991) Attachment styles among young adults: a test of a four category model. J Pers Soc Psychol 61:226–244PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bouchard M-A, Target M, Lecours S, Fonagy P, Tremblay L-M, Schachter A, Stein H (2008) Mentalization in adult attachment narratives: reflective functioning, mental states, and affect elaboration compared. Psychoanal Psychol 25(1):47–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brennan KA, Clark CL, Shaver PR (1998) Self-report measurement of adult attachment: An integrative overview. In: Simpson JA, Rholes WS (eds) Attachment theory and close relationships. Guilford Press, New York, pp 46–76Google Scholar
  6. Britton PC, Fuendeling JM (2005) The relations among varieties of adult attachment and the components of empathy. J Soc Psychol 145(5):519–530PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carroll JM, Yung CK (2006) Sex and discipline differences in empathising, systemising and autistic symptomatology: evidence from a student population. J Autism Dev Disord 36:949–957PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Declerck CH, Bogaert S (2008) Social value orientation: related to empathy and the ability to read the mind in the eyes. J Soc Psychol 148(6):711–726PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fonagy P, Gergely G, Jurist E, Target M (2002) Affect regulation, mentalization, and the development of the self. Other Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Fonagy P, Gergely G, Target M (2007) The parent-infant dyad and the construction of the subjective self. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 48(3/4):288–328PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fonagy P, Gergely G, Target M (2008) Psychoanalytic constructs and attachment theory and research. In: Cassidy J, Shaver PR (eds) Handbook of attachment: theory, research, and clinical applications, 2nd edn. Guilford Press, New York, NY, pp 783–810Google Scholar
  12. Fraley RC, Niedenthal PM, Marks M, Brumbaugh C, Vicary A (2006) Adult attachment and the perception of emotional expressions: probing the hyperactivation strategies underlying anxious attachment. J Pers 74(4):1163–1190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Harkness K, Sabbagh M, Jacobson J, Chowdrey N, Chen T (2005) Enhanced accuracy of mental state decoding in dysphoric college students. Cogn Emot 19(7):999–1025CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Harkness KL, Washburn D, Theriault JE, Lee L, Sabbagh MA (2011) Maternal history of depression is associated with enhanced theory of mind in depressed and nondepressed adult women. Psychiatry Res 189:91–96PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kafetsios K (2004) Attachment and emotional intelligence abilities across the life course. Pers Individ Differ 37:129–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Meins E, Harris-Waller J, Lloyd A (2008) Understanding alexithymia: associations with peer attachment style an mind-mindedness. Pers Individ Differ 45:146–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mikulincer M, Shaver PR (2007) Attachment in adulthood: structure, dynamics, and change. Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Mikulincer M, Shaver PR (2008) Adult attachment and affect regulation. In: Cassidy J, Shaver PR (eds) Handbook of attachment: theory, research, and clinical applications, 2nd edn. Guilford Press, New York, NY, pp 503–531Google Scholar
  19. Pardini M, Nichelli PF (2009) Age-related decline in mentalizing skills across adult life span. Exp Aging Res 35:98–106PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Picardi A, Bitetti D, Puddu P, Pasquini P (2000) La scala ‘Experiences In Close Relationships (ECL), un nuovo strumento per la valutazione dell’attaccamento negli adulti: traduzione, adattamento e validazione della versione italiana. Rivista di Psichiatria 35(3):114–120Google Scholar
  21. Premack DG, Woodruff G (1978) Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? Behav Brain Sci 1(4):515–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Taylor EL, Target M, Charman T (2008) Attachment in adults with high-functioning autism. Attach Hum Dev 10(2):143–163PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Vellante M, Baron-Cohen S, Melis M, Marrone M, Petretto DR, Masala C, Preti A (2012) The “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test: systematic review of psychometric properties and a validation study in Italy. Cogn Neuropsychiatry. doi:10.1080/13546805.2012.721728 PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Wilson KR (2010) Attachment and mentalization: thinking about others’ mental states. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Stanford UniversityGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Hünefeldt
    • 1
  • Fiorenzo Laghi
    • 2
  • Francesca Ortu
    • 3
  1. 1.ECONA, Interuniversity Centre for Research on Cognitive Processing in Natural and Artificial SystemsSapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, Faculty of Medicine and PsychologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  3. 3.Department of Clinical and Dynamic Psychology, Faculty of Medicine and PsychologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly

Personalised recommendations