To understand how cognitive dysfunction contributes to social cognitive deficits in depression, we investigated the relationship between executive function and social cognitive performance in adolescents and young adults during current and remitted depression, compared to healthy controls. Social cognition and executive function were measured in 179 students (61 healthy controls and 118 patients with depression; Mage =20.60 years; SDage =3.82 years). Hierarchical regression models were employed within each group (healthy controls, remitted depression, current depression) to examine the nature of associations between cognitive measures. Social cognitive and executive function did not significantly differ overall between depressed patients and healthy controls. There was no association between executive function and social cognitive function in healthy controls or in remitted patients. However, in patients with a current state of depression, lower cognitive flexibility was associated with lower performance in facial-affect recognition, theory-of-mind tasks and overall affect recognition. In this group, better planning abilities were associated with decreased performance in facial affect recognition and overall social cognitive performance. While we infer that less cognitive flexibility might lead to a more rigid interpretation of ambiguous social stimuli, we interpret the counterintuitive negative correlation of planning ability and social cognition as a compensatory mechanism.
- Adolescent Adolescent Behavior/*psychology Adult Cognition/*physiology Cognitive Dysfunction/diagnosis/epidemiology/*psychology Cross-Sectional Studies Depressive Disorder, Major/diagnosis/epidemiology/*psychology Executive Function/*physiology Female Humans Male Neuropsychological Tests Social Adjustment *Social Behavior Young Adult *Cognition *Cognitive dysfunction *Depression *Theory of mind