Investigation of Social Dysfunction and Affect in Schizophrenia
Social dysfunction is a hallmark of schizophrenia and leads to significant disability and distress. Decreased positive and increased negative affect predict poorer social functioning in those with schizophrenia. Social functioning and affect have traditionally been measured in the laboratory; yet, these methods are limited. Experience sampling methods (ESM) offer more immediate, ecologically valid assessments of these constructs. The purpose of this study was to examine social functioning and affect in schizophrenia using a novel form of ESM that passively collects audio data. The two primary hypotheses were: 1) clinical status (schizophrenia versus control) will predict social functioning, level of positive affect, and level of negative affect; and 2) the relationship between clinical status and affect will be moderated by context (social versus non-social). Additional exploratory aims tested the convergent validity between traditional, laboratory-based assessments of social functioning and this novel ESM. Data was collected from 38 people with schizophrenia and 36 control participants; Results partially supported the hypotheses. As expected, laboratory measures of social functioning revealed that those with schizophrenia performed worse than controls. ESM measures of social functioning found that the schizophrenia group interacted with others at the same rate as the control group but did not exhibit as much social engagement. ESM measures of affect revealed the schizophrenia group reported more negative affect than controls, but no differences in positive affect were found. Social context did not moderate the relationship between clinical status and affect. Lastly, correlations between laboratory measures and ESM measures of social functioning were significant for the schizophrenia group but not the control group. Results further our understanding of social functioning and affect in those with schizophrenia and yield important implications for future work.