Theory of mind, humour processing and executive functioning in alcoholism

Addiction. 2007 Feb;102(2):232-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01656.x.


Aims: Alcoholism is associated with cognitive deficits, which have been interpreted in terms of a specific vulnerability of the frontal lobes to the toxic effects of alcohol. While executive functions in alcoholism have been investigated extensively, only little work has been carried out on social cognition. The aim of the present study was to investigate the association between executive functions, theory of mind and humour processing in alcoholism.

Design, setting, participants and measurements: A comprehensive neuropsychological test battery was administered to 29 alcoholic patients (Alc) and 29 healthy controls (HC). The test battery included measurements of affect, general intellectual abilities, executive functions, humour processing and theory of mind. The two groups were comparable with respect to affective variables, IQ, gender and age.

Findings and conclusions: Group comparisons revealed cognitive as well as affective humour processing deficits of alcoholics in comparison with HC. The observed impairments were related to theory of mind and executive functions. The deficits may contribute to interpersonal problems and are thus of relevance to rehabilitation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Mental Recall
  • Wit and Humor as Topic / psychology*