The effect of context processing on different aspects of social cognition in schizophrenia

Yu Sun Chung, Jennifer R. Mathews, Deanna M. Barch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Background: It is well known that individuals with schizophrenia have impaired social cognition. The construct of social cognition involves several components, including perception, interpretation, and the ability to integrate context (Adolphs R. The neurobiology of social cognition. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2001;11:231-239; Brothers L. The social brain: a project for integrating primate behavior and neurophysiology in a new domain. Concepts Neurosci. 1990;1:27-61). Importantly, a number of studies have suggested that deficits in context processing underlie cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia (Penn DL, Corrigan PW, Bentall RP, Racenstein JM, Newman L. Social cognition in schizophrenia. Psychol Bull. 1997;121(1):114-132; Green MF, Nuechterlein KH. Should schizophrenia be treated as a neurocognitive disorder? Schizophr Bull. 1999;25:309-319). Thus, the purpose of the current study was to investigate the relationship between context processing and different aspects of social cognition in schizophrenia. Method: Individuals with schizophrenia (n = 41) and the healthy controls (n = 32) participated in this study. The participants completed 2 sections of The Awareness of Social Inference Test: (1) social inference minimal (SI-M) and (2) social inference enriched (SI-E). They also completed face and voice emotion discrimination tasks. In addition, we used the AX-Continuous Performance Test (AX-CPT) to measure context processing and the n-back task to measure working memory more generally. Results: AX-CPT performance in schizophrenia was positively correlated with both SI-M and SI-E performance but not with either the face or the voice discrimination. Furthermore, the correlation between AX-CPT performance and SI-M/SI-E performance was significantly stronger in individuals with schizophrenia than in controls. Conclusion: These results suggest that impairments in context processing are related to inferential components of social cognition in schizophrenia but not to the ability to recognition facial or vocal emotion. As such, deficits in context processing may contribute to deficits in both "hot" and "cold" aspects of cognition in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1048-1056
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia bulletin
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • context processing
  • schizophrenia
  • social cognition


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