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Keywords:

  • affect recognition;
  • emotion processing;
  • psychosis proneness;
  • schizophrenia;
  • schizotypy

Abstract

Aim: Deficits in facial affect recognition are well established in schizophrenia, yet relatively little research has examined facial affect recognition in hypothetically psychosis-prone or ‘schizotypal’ individuals. Those studies that have examined social cognition in psychosis-prone individuals have paid little attention to the association between facial emotion recognition and particular schizotypal personality features. The present study therefore sought to investigate relationships between facial emotion recognition and the different aspects of schizotypy.

Methods: Facial affect recognition accuracy was examined in 50 psychiatrically healthy individuals assessed for level of schizotypy using the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire. This instrument provides a multidimensional measure of schizophrenia proneness, encompassing ‘cognitive-perceptual’, ‘interpersonal’ and ‘disorganized’ features of schizotypy. It was hypothesized that the cognitive-perceptual and interpersonal aspects of schizotypy would be associated with difficulties identifying facial expressions of emotion during a forced-choice recognition task using a standardized series of colour photographs.

Results: As predicted, interpersonal aspects of schizotypy (particularly social anxiety) were associated with reduced accuracy on the facial affect recognition task, but there was no association between affect recognition accuracy and cognitive-perceptual features of schizotypy.

Conclusions: These results suggest that subtle deficits in facial affect recognition in otherwise psychiatrically healthy individuals may be related to the vulnerability for interpersonal communication difficulties, as seen in schizophrenia.