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The understanding and perception of emotion in schizophrenia

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posted on 15.12.2014, 10:46 by Richard. Longmore
Objectives: Research is beginning to examine the links between schizophrenia and social cognition - the processes people use to make sense of their social experience (Corrigan & Perm, 2001). Identifying emotion in other people is a vital social skill. A significant body of research shows that people with schizophrenia have problems judging facial emotions. However, an intact understanding of emotion concepts is usually assumed in such research. This thesis aims to establish (a) whether affect recognition difficulties in schizophrenia reflect problems in the understanding or perception of emotion (b) the relationship of emotional understanding to social functioning and (c) how far general cognition accounts for differences in affect recognition. Method: The study describes the validation of a set of vignettes that reliably imply specific emotions. These were then administered to participants with a diagnosis of schizophrenia (n = 60), nonclinical controls (n = 40) and learning disabled controls (n = 20). There were two experimental conditions. In the first, vignettes were paired with emotion words. In the second, they were matched with previously validated photographs of emotional facial expressions. A measure of intelligence was administered to all participants, and a social functioning scale was completed for participants with schizophrenia. Results: Participants with schizophrenia and learning disabled controls had significantly more difficulty than nonclinical controls in the understanding and perception of emotion. Once general intellectual functioning was taken into account, however, only the group with schizophrenia showed a differential deficit in affect recognition. No differential deficit was found in the perception of facial emotion in schizophrenia, although performance on some emotions was markedly low. There was no significant correlation between affect recognition ability and social functioning in schizophrenia. Conclusion: People with schizophrenia have a specific and differential deficit in social understanding which is not wholly accounted for by general cognitive functioning.


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Clinical Psychology

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University of Leicester

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