June 03, 2005

Attention may affect emotion processing

A study out of the University of Tulsa reports that people with schizophrenia may have trouble recognizing other people's emotions because they do not focus on the face long enough.

Dr. Dennis Combs, who will publish his findings in the next Schizophrenia Bulletin, tested 65 in-patients with chronic schizophrenia on four factors: looking at a person long enought to recognize and emtional expression, detecting when emotions change, taking in all features of the face (including portions less-relevant to emotion recognition), and speed of response to an emotional expression.

Combs reported that patients often didn't look at a face long enough, and/or focused on the less-relevant features. Combs believes that this contributed to the much higher number of errors that his subjects made - out of 19 emotional faces, the patients averaged about 9 correct, a much lower average than normal subjects.

One weakness in these findings is that there does not appear to be a control group or standard that would determine what is a normal amount of time for emotional recognition when someone looks at a facial expression. At this time, the current issue of Schizophrenia Bulletin is not available online - we will examine the article when it is available.

A follow-up study, funded by a $23,000 grant from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, will attempt to determine whether a prominent visual cue (such as a small colored X placed in the center of a photograph with an emotional face on it) can help train people with schizophrenia to examine the face longer.

Comb's research is important because it recognizes that difficulties in emotional processing and social behavior may have their roots in something as basic as attention. In studies of autistic individuals, who also have trouble with emotional recognition (specifically, the ability to empathize), researchers have said that empathy can probably be learned if an individual can be taught which emotions go with which appropriate events (see BBC News "Empathy finding offers autism hope" for more information) . But before one can reach this level of behavioral therapy, a person must be able to focus on the expression long enough to recognize that there is an emotion present. The results of these two studies, the most recent and the future one, will hopefully translate into practical behavioral therapy for people with schizophrenia who have trouble with social behavior.

Source: Newswise, June 3 2005. "Clue found for perception deficit in schizophrenia"


Hi I have some of family members has schizpoa, it really hard to understanding them and hard to get along with eachother, but since I read some of this article it is very helpful. Thks

Posted by: STEPHANIE MARSOLEK at August 30, 2005 11:01 AM

Hi it a great article about the schzophia, I will recommended this to my friends who has family member with schzophia.

Posted by: STEPHANIE at August 30, 2005 11:03 AM

Hmmm... I wonder how this idea of learning empathy correlates with the recent study of mirror neurons - which seem to give a basis for empathy.

I believe we microscopically mimic other's posture/expressions/movement in our muscles - and then are able to estimate the internal state of the other from the feeling in the muscles.
Insufficient attention or cognitive distraction would ensure that either we don't mimic others in our musculature... OR the automatic recognition of the internal state corresponding to the microscopic mimicking in our musculature has somehow been interrupted.

Posted by: Mark - London at April 28, 2008 01:56 PM

Post a comment

Please enter this code to enable your comment -
Remember Me?
(you may use HTML tags for style)
* indicates required