The neurobiology of mentalizing

Personal Disord. 2015 Oct;6(4):366-79. doi: 10.1037/per0000117.


Mentalizing is the capacity to understand ourselves and others in terms of intentional mental states, such as feelings, desires, wishes, attitudes, and goals. It is a fundamental capacity in our complex social environment. This article reviews our current understanding of the neurobiology of mentalizing. We first summarize the key assumptions of the mentalizing approach to normal and disrupted development. This is followed by discussion of the multiple dimensions of mentalizing and our emerging knowledge of the neural circuits that underlie these dimensions. We then consider the neurobiology of attachment and arousal regulation in relation to mentalizing, and summarize relevant studies in this area. Finally, we discuss the limitations of extant research and outline implications for future research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Cerebrum / metabolism
  • Cerebrum / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Object Attachment*
  • Theory of Mind / physiology*