Patients with schizophrenia show deficits in core cognitive functions as well as in social cognition. The aim of the present study was to test whether deficits in social cognition influence nonsocial, "cold", cognition. Thirty-five patients with recent-onset schizophrenia (SC) and 30 healthy controls (HC) performed a Simon task with social and simple geometric stimuli. We investigated whether the Simon effect, the slowing of reaction times produced by stimulus incongruities in the task-irrelevant spatial domain, differs between patients and healthy participants as a function of the social nature of the cues. The Simon effect was generated by a schematic drawing of human eyes (social cues) or rectangles (nonsocial cues). Overall, patients had longer reaction times than HC. In the eye-like condition, the Simon effect was significantly stronger for HC than for SC. In HC the Simon effect was significantly stronger in the eye-like than in the rectangle condition. In patients, the Simon effect did not differ significantly between both conditions. Thus, the influence of social cues was greatly reduced in the patient group. Current psychopathology or antipsychotic treatment did not influence results. The present study supports earlier findings of altered processing of schematic social cues in patients with schizophrenia, especially when gaze is task-irrelevant.

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The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Department of Psychiatry

Röder, C., Dieleman, S., Mohr, H. M., Sterrenburg, A., van Beveren, N., & Linden, D. (2014). Impairment of gaze-directed spatial coding in recent-onset schizophrenia. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. doi:10.1080/17470218.2014.938665