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PNB Colloquium - Kate Harkness - Reading the Minds of Others: Paradoxes, Mechanisms, and Outcomes Across the Depression Spectrum



Kate Harkness
Queen's University

Reading the Minds of Others: Paradoxes, Mechanisms, and Outcomes Across the Depression Spectrum

Abstract: Major depression affects over 3 million Canadians and is associated with significant impairment in interpersonal functioning. The social cognitive foundation of successful interpersonal interaction is ‘theory of mind,’ defined as the ability to understand and make judgmentsabout others’ mental states. A substantial body of evidence confirms significantly poorer accuracy at decoding others’ mental states in clinically depressed groups relative to healthy comparison samples. Paradoxically, however, those with subthreshold levels of depression symptoms (i.e., dysphoria) have shown enhanced theory of mind decoding ability relative to non-dysphoric groups. In this talk I will provide data from behavioural and neurophysiological studies bearing on the motivational processes andneurocognitive architecture underlying this paradoxical enhanced theory ofmind in dysphoria, as well as the implications of individual differences in theory of mind generally for real-world social and interpersonal functioning. Further, I will discuss the implications of this dissociation in theory of mind performance between subthreshold and clinical groups for understanding the fundamental nature of depression as a categorical versus a dimensional phenomenon.

Dr. Kate Harkness is a Professor in the Psychology and Psychiatry Departments at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, where she also servesas Director of the Mood Research Laboratory and Assessment Service. Dr. Harkness received her PhD from the University of Oregon, and completed her residency and a NIMH-funded fellowship at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her research programme is focused on understanding how social cognitive and neurobiological vulnerabilities interact with particular early and proximal environmental contexts to cause and maintain depression. An additional focus of Dr. Harkness’ research is to better understand the heterogeneity of depression to inform personalized treatment.


Host: Paul Andrews
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