Award Date

5-1-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Committee Member

Daniel N. Allen

Second Committee Member

Jefferson Kinney

Third Committee Member

Murray Millar

Fourth Committee Member

Merrill Landers

Number of Pages

101

Abstract

Individuals with schizophrenia exhibit a wide range of complex neurocognitive, psychiatric and behavioral impairments. Recent research suggests that this complex array of symptoms can be at least partially accounted for by dysfunction in more basic mechanisms, such as the ability to learn from positive and negative reinforcement, or the ability to exert adequate effort when completing simple tasks. Evidence also suggests that deficits in these basic mechanisms may contribute to more complex symptoms, such as functional impairment. Also, the relationship between neurocognitive deficits and functional impairment has been found to be mediated by defeatist performance beliefs. However, studies have not examined the relationships among these various constructs so it is not clear how impairment in more basic processes relate to the development or maintenance of complex psychological and behavioral disturbances. The current study addresses these matters by examining effort, reinforcement learning, defeatist performance beliefs and functional capacity in individuals with schizophrenia and controls using a path analysis. After examining a number of competing models, the best fitting model was one in which defeatist performance beliefs were predicting effort, reinforcement learning, and functional capacity while effort and reinforcement learning were also predicting functional capacity. This model depicted the opposite relationship among the variables than was expected. The current study suggests that defeatist performance beliefs have a more predictive and potentially causal influence on complex neurocognitive abilities related to learning and reward, as well as functional capacity. Results of this study support the use of therapeutic strategies aimed at reducing cognitive distortions, e.g. defeatist performance beliefs, and that these therapeutic strategies may be impacting neurocognitive abilities and functional outcome more directly than previously believed.

Keywords

defeatist performance beliefs; effort; reward learning; schizophrenia

Disciplines

Medical Neurobiology | Mental and Social Health | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Neurosciences | Psychology

Language

English