Award Date

8-1-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Committee Member

Daniel N. Allen

Second Committee Member

Christopher Heavey

Third Committee Member

Joel Snyder

Fourth Committee Member

Merrill Landers

Number of Pages

230

Abstract

The presence of deficits in various sub-domains of social cognition has been investigated to a degree in individuals with schizophrenia. Some of the most commonly researched and documented deficits have included impairments in the identification of affect portrayed in faces. Research has indicated that the performance of individuals with schizophrenia on such tasks is generally impaired as compared to normal controls. However, some have questioned the generalizability of such findings to real-world situations, as day-to-day interactions generally necessitate a constant, fluid assessment of the thoughts and feelings of others and are rarely, if ever, limited to still images of others. Furthermore, the commonly observed deficits in social functioning in individuals with schizophrenia are likely related to impairments in multiple sub-constructs related to social cognition in general, and not solely to deficits in affect identification.

The primary purpose of this study was to evaluate individuals with schizophrenia on a number of increasingly complex social cognitive tasks across multiple sub-domains of social cognition, namely affect identification, perception and interpretation of complex social situations, and theory of mind. Unique contributions of these sub-domains to one another were systematically examined, with contributions evaluated including those of basic visual and auditory perception on affect perception, of affect perception on perception and interpretation of complex social situations, and of perception and interpretation of complex social situations on theory of mind. Path analysis was used to conduct such evaluations, allowing for a comparison of goodness of fit of various models depicting the various hypothesized relationships between these variables. It was hypothesized that the simplest, most parsimonious model would be the best fit for the data. In contrast, it was found that a slightly more complex model, which included paths reflecting the predictive relationships of auditory perception and visual perception to auditory/visual affect identification, was found to be the best fit for the data. The findings of the present study warrant further exploration of social cognition in schizophrenia, particularly in the evaluation of the efficacy of treatment strategies which target more basic social cognitive processes in an effort to improve higher-order social cognitive processes in a bottom-up fashion.

Keywords

Affect (Psychology); Executive function; Learning; Learning and memory; Memory; Neuropsychology; Path analysis; Schizophrenia; Social cognition; Social perception

Disciplines

Cognition and Perception | Mental Disorders | Psychology

Language

English


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