Effects of metacognitive training (MCT) on social cognition for schizophrenia spectrum and related psychotic disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Psychol Med. 2023 Sep 29:1-7. doi: 10.1017/S0033291723002611. Online ahead of print.


Background: Individuals with schizophrenia spectrum and related psychotic disorders (SSD) experience significant impairments in social cognition that impede functioning. Social cognition is a multidimensional construct consisting of four domains: 1. theory of mind, 2. emotion processing, 3. attributional style and 4. social perception. Metacognitive training (MCT) is an intervention designed to target cognitive biases in psychosis containing two modules addressing social cognition.

Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted to investigate the effects of MCT on social cognition and two of its domains: theory of mind and emotion processing. Ten electronic databases were scoured from 2007 to 1 February 2022 for MCT studies reporting social cognition outcomes for people with SSD (1050 identified, 282 assessed). Effect sizes were calculated using Cohen's d in R.

Results: Nine studies were included in the meta-analysis (nMCT = 212, ncontrol = 194). MCT had a small but positive effect on global social cognition (d = 0.28 [95% CI 0.07-0.49]) and theory of mind (d = 0.27 [95% CI 0.01-0.52]). MCT showed no evidence of an effect on emotion processing (d = 0.03 [95% CI -0.26 to 0.32]).

Conclusion: MCT has a small but significant effect on social cognition for people with SSD. Our results add to other recent meta-analyses showing significant effects of MCT on clinically relevant outcomes such as positive symptoms, cognitive biases and cognitive insight. We recommend that future studies on MCT report outcomes on all four domains of social cognition.

Trial registration: PROSPERO (in the process of registration) available at https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/#recordDetails.

Keywords: emotion processing; metacognition; psychosis; theory of mind.