Social judgement in borderline personality disorder

Katie Nicol, Merrick Pope, Reiner Heinrich Sprengelmeyer, Andrew W Young, Jeremy Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a common and serious mental illness, associated with a high risk of suicide and self harm. Those with a diagnosis of BPD often display difficulties with social interaction and struggle to form and maintain interpersonal relationships. Here we investigated the ability of participants with BPD to make social inferences from faces. Method: 20 participants with BPD and 21 healthy controls were shown a series of faces and asked to judge these according to one of six characteristics (age, distinctiveness, attractiveness, intelligence, approachability, trustworthiness). The number and direction of errors made (compared to population norms) were recorded for analysis. Results: Participants with a diagnosis of BPD displayed significant impairments in making judgements from faces. In particular, the BPD Group judged faces as less approachable and less trustworthy than controls. Furthermore, within the BPD Group there was a correlation between scores on the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) and bias towards judging faces as unapproachable. Conclusion: Individuals with a diagnosis of BPD have difficulty making appropriate social judgements about others from their faces. Judging more faces as unapproachable and untrustworthy indicates that this group may have a heightened sensitivity to perceiving potential threat, and this should be considered in clinical management and treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere73440
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2013


  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
  • Social judgment
  • Face recognition
  • Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ)


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