Social-cue perception and mentalizing ability following traumatic brain injury: A human-robot interaction study
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PRIMARY OBJECTIVE: Research studies and clinical observations of individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) indicate marked deficits in mentalizing-perceiving social information and integrating it into judgements about the affective and mental states of others. The current study investigates social-cognitive mechanisms that underlie mentalizing ability to advance our understanding of social consequences of TBI and inform the development of more effective clinical interventions. RESEARCH DESIGN: The study followed a mixed-design experiment, manipulating the presence of a mentalizing gaze cue across trials and participant population (TBI vs. healthy comparisons). METHODS AND PROCEDURES: Participants, 153 adults, 74 with moderate-severe TBI and 79 demographically matched healthy comparison peers, were asked to judge a humanoid robot's mental state based on precisely controlled gaze cues presented by the robot and apply those judgements to respond accurately on the experimental task. MAIN OUTCOMES AND RESULTS: Results showed that, contrary to our hypothesis, the social cues improved task performance in the TBI group but not the healthy comparison group. CONCLUSIONS: Results provide evidence that, in specific contexts, individuals with TBI can perceive, correctly recognize, and integrate dynamic gaze cues and motivate further research to understand why this ability may not translate to day-to-day social interactions.
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