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BACKGROUND: The excess risk of violence in psychotic disorders may partly be explained by impairments in executive functions (EFs) and theory of mind (ToM). However, previous studies have been limited by composite measures of EFs and small samples of inpatients. METHODS: Data were collected for the research project Genetic Risk and Outcome of Psychosis (GROUP). Patients with psychotic disorders (N = 891) were recruited from various care settings in the Netherlands. The following neuropsychological tests were administered (targeted cognitive function in parentheses): (i) Continuous Performance Test-HQ (inhibition); (ii) Response Shifting Task (cognitive flexibility); (iii) Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Third Edition (WAIS-III) Block Design subtest (fluid intelligence); (iv) Neuropsychological Assessment Battery (NAB) Mazes Test (planning); (v) Degraded Facial Affect Recognition Task (affective ToM); and (vi) Hinting Task (cognitive ToM). Lifetime violence was ascertained from medical records and patient interviews. We used analysis of covariance to compare the mean scores of violent and nonviolent patients on each test, adjusting for age and sex. RESULTS: Violent patients performed significantly worse than nonviolent patients on the WAIS-III Block Design subtest (F [1, 847] = 5.12, p = .024), NAB Mazes Test (F [1, 499] = 5.32, p = .022) and Hinting Task (F [1, 839] = 9.38, p = .002). For the other tests, the between-group differences were nonsignificant. Violent behavior explained no more than 1% of the variance in performance on each test. CONCLUSION: Impairments in EFs and ToM are unlikely to provide useful targets for risk assessment and interventions.

Original publication




Journal article


Schizophr Res Cogn

Publication Date





Aggression, Executive functions, Psychosis, Schizophrenia, Theory of mind, Violence