Date of Degree

10-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor(s)

Deborah J. Walder

Subject Categories

Psychology

Keywords

facial affect recognition, psychosis risk, schizotypy, social cognition, social functioning

Abstract

Facial affect recognition (FAR) is impaired in schizophrenia patients and to a lesser extent in individuals at familial/genetic, clinical, and psychometric risk for psychosis. Reduced FAR reaction time and negative bias are present in patients; however, their role is less clear in at-risk samples. Impaired social functioning, a hallmark of schizophrenia, is also impaired in at-risk individuals and is associated with FAR impairment. Given FAR deficits in schizophrenia, the current study aimed to elucidate the nature of FAR and social functioning impairments among individuals at high psychometric risk for psychosis and to examine whether FAR acts as a mediator in the relationship between schizotypal traits and social functioning. Nine-hundred and sixty-five (653 Female/312 Male) young adults were recruited from across CUNY campuses and asked to complete self-report measures assessing schizotypal traits (to determine psychometric risk status) and social functioning. Participants were also administered a computerized measure of FAR remotely via the Internet. Individuals at high psychometric risk performed significantly worse on total accuracy and neutral accuracy and were significantly more likely to misattribute negative emotions and sadness to neutral faces when compared to low-risk individuals. However, when adjusting for depressive symptoms, schizotypal traits were no longer associated with negative bias. Aspects of FAR performance were differentially associated with schizotypal traits in the total, high-risk, and low-risk samples. High-risk individuals reported significantly worse social functioning than individuals at low risk, and FAR accuracy was a partial mediator of the relationship between schizotypal traits and social functioning in the total sample. Results demonstrating attenuated FAR deficits in psychometrically at-risk individuals suggest that FAR may be an important endophenotype of schizophrenia spectrum disorders and has implications for understanding etiology of these disorders. Furthermore, results demonstrating that FAR deficits were related to poor social functioning in at-risk individuals have important clinical implications for improving ways of identifying those at risk and potential treatment strategies.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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