Study development and protocol for a cohort study examining the impact of baseline social cognition on response to treatment for people living with post-traumatic stress disorder

Background: Social cognitive impairments, specifically in facial emotion processing and mental state attribution, are common in post-traumatic stress disorder. However few studies so far have examined whether social cognitive ability impacts on PTSD recovery.


Objective: To examine whether baseline social cognitive abilities are associated with treatment outcomes following trauma-focused therapy for PTSD.


Method: This is a cohort study that will relate treatment outcomes post-discharge to baseline measures of social cognition (five tasks: Emotion Odd-One-Out Task (Oddity), Reading the Mind in the Eyes Task (RMET), Social Shapes Test (SST), Spontaneous Theory of Mind Protocol (STOMP), and Reflective Functioning Questionnaire (RFQ-8)) in people starting a course of psychological therapy for PTSD (target N = 60). The primary outcome will be pre- to post-treatment change in PTSD symptom severity (assessed using the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5). Secondary outcomes include functional impairment (assessed using the Work and Social Adjustment Scale), drop-out rate, and analyses differentiating participants with DSM-5 PTSD and ICD-11 PTSD and CPTSD. Regression models will be used to examine associations between baseline social cognitive performance and outcome measures while adjusting for potential confounders. Two pilot studies informed the development of our study protocol. The first involved qualitative analysis of interviews with nine participants with lived experience of mental health problems to inform our research questions and study protocol. The second involved trialling social cognitive tasks on 20 non-clinical participants to refine our test battery.


Discussion: This study will address a gap in the literature about whether abilities in social cognition in people living with PTSD are associated with treatment-related recovery.



•  Impairments in social cognition are recognised in people with PTSD.

•  Few studies have examined whether social cognitive ability is associated with recovery from PTSD.

•  We present a study protocol, developed after pilot testing, to address this question.


Chantelle Wiseman, Andrew D. Lawrence, Jonathan I. Bisson , James Hotham , Anke Karl, and Stan Zammit | 2022
In: European Journal of Psychotraumatology ; ISSN: 2000-8066 | 13 | 1 | July | 2093036
Adults, Assessment, Complex PTSD, Emotional States, Facial Emotion Recognition, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Practice Guideline, Psychotherapy, Psychotrauma, PTSD (DSM-5), PTSD (en), PTSD (ICD-11), Research, Study Protocol, Treatment