Mentalizing in and out of awareness: A meta-analytic review of implicit and explicit mentalizing

Yogev Kivity, Kenneth N. Levy, Benjamin N. Johnson, Lia K. Rosenstein, James M. LeBreton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Background: Mentalizing, making sense of mental states, is hypothesized to have a central role in self-organization and social learning. Findings support this notion, but the extent of the association between mentalizing and various correlates has not been meta-analyzed. Furthermore, mentalizing presumably occurs with (explicit) and without (implicit) awareness but few studies have attempted to disentangle these aspects. We conducted a meta-analysis of implicit and explicit mentalizing in relation to the domains of attachment security, personality, affect, psychopathology, and functioning. Methods: We searched for studies of adult mentalizing in PsycINFO and in related reviews. Overall, 511 studies (N = 78,733) met criteria and were analyzed using multi-level meta-analysis. Results: Implicit (r = 0.19–0.29) and explicit (r = 0.26–0.40) mentalizing were moderately correlated with psychopathology, functioning, personality, affect, and attachment security. The correlations of implicit mentalizing were stronger with more objectively measured correlates (b = 0.02, p < .001) while the correlations of explicit mentalizing were not (b = −0.07, p = .21). Conclusions: Mentalizing is associated with better intra- and interpersonal functioning. Implicit mentalizing is more strongly associated with objectively measured correlates. These findings underscore the importance of an integrative approach considering both implicit and explicit mentalizing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102395
JournalClinical Psychology Review
StatePublished - Mar 2024

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  • Explicit constructs
  • Implicit constructs
  • Mentalizing
  • Meta-analysis
  • Unconscious constructs


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