Social impairment is a core feature of schizophrenia, present from the pre-morbid stage and predictive of outcome, but the etiology of this deficit remains poorly understood. Successful and adaptive social interactions depend on one's ability to make rapid and accurate judgments about others in real time. Our surprising ability to form accurate first impressions from brief exposures, known as "thin slices" of behavior has been studied very extensively in healthy participants. We sought to examine affect and social trait judgment from thin slices of static or video stimuli in order to investigate the ability of schizophrenic individuals to form reliable social impressions of others. 21 individuals with schizophrenia (SZ) and 20 matched healthy participants (HC) were asked to identify emotions and social traits for actors in standardized face stimuli as well as brief video clips. Sound was removed from videos to remove all verbal cues. Clinical symptoms in SZ and delusional ideation in both groups were measured. Results showed a general impairment in affect recognition for both types of stimuli in SZ. However, the two groups did not differ in the judgments of trustworthiness, approachability, attractiveness, and intelligence. Interestingly, in SZ, the severity of positive symptoms was correlated with higher ratings of attractiveness, trustworthiness, and approachability. Finally, increased delusional ideation in SZ was associated with a tendency to rate others as more trustworthy, while the opposite was true for HC. These findings suggest that complex social judgments in SZ are affected by symptomatology.
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