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Responding to joint attention bids in schizophrenia: An interactive eye-tracking study

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Caruana, N., Seymour, K., Brock, J., & Langdon, R. (2019). Responding to joint attention bids in schizophrenia: An interactive eye-tracking study. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 72(8), 2068-2083. doi:10.1177/1747021819829718.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-82BA-4
Abstract
This study investigated social cognition in schizophrenia using a virtual reality paradigm to capture the dynamic processes of evaluating and responding to eye gaze as an intentional communicative cue. A total of 21 patients with schizophrenia and 21 age-, gender-, and IQ-matched healthy controls completed an interactive computer game with an on-screen avatar that participants believed was controlled by an off-screen partner. On social trials, participants were required to achieve joint attention by correctly interpreting and responding to gaze cues. Participants also completed non-social trials in which they responded to an arrow cue within the same task context. While patients and controls took equivalent time to process communicative intent from gaze shifts, patients made significantly more errors than controls when responding to the directional information conveyed by gaze, but not arrow, cues. Despite no differences in response times to gaze cues between groups, patients were significantly slower than controls when responding to arrow cues. This is the opposite pattern of results previously observed in autistic adults using the same task and suggests that, despite general impairments in attention orienting or oculomotor control, patients with schizophrenia demonstrate a facilitation effect when responding to communicative gaze cues. Findings indicate a hyper-responsivity to gaze cues of communicative intent in schizophrenia. The possible effects of self-referential biases when evaluating gaze direction are discussed, as are clinical implications.