OBJECTIVE: Since individuals with schizophrenia often have difficulty
with abstract tasks, they should have more problems recognizing abstract
social cues (e.g., inferences regarding actors' affect and goals) than
concrete cues (e.g., observations of actors' behavior and dialogue).
Moreover, recognition of abstract and concrete cues should interact with
the level of emotional arousal engendered by the situation; previous
research has shown that schizophrenic patients perform better on cue
recognition tasks when the situation produces moderate rather than low
levels of arousal. METHOD: These hypotheses were tested in 24 patients with
schizophrenia diagnosed according to the DSM-III-R criteria and 15 normal
comparison subjects. All subjects viewed eight short vignettes of
interpersonal situations that produce low and moderate levels of arousal.
They then answered questions representing perception of abstract and
concrete cues that had been matched for difficulty and consistency.
RESULTS: The schizophrenic patients were significantly less sensitive to
interpersonal cues than the normal subjects. The patients were also less
sensitive to abstract than to concrete social cues, and for them there was
a significant interaction between cue abstraction level and situational
arousal. Specifically, the schizophrenic subjects performed worse on the
abstract cue recognition task for the low-arousal situations. CONCLUSIONS:
Findings regarding the social cue recognition patterns of schizophrenic
patients could play an important role in the development of valid measures
of social cognition for this population.