Introduction and historical note
The observation of impaired attention in schizophrenia was made at least as early as 1919 by Kraepelin (Kraepelin, 1919). He may also have been the first investigator to apply the techniques of the experimental psychology laboratory to patients with major neuropsychiatric disorder. This work is cited by Hoch in a paper referring to Kraepelin's application of Wundt's techniques to the study of psychiatric patients (Hoch, 1896). In Dementia Praecox, Kraepelin (1919) noted specifically these characteristics of impaired attention in his schizophrenic patients: “It is quite common for them to lose both inclination and ability on their own initiative to keep their attention fixed for any length of time. It is often difficult to make them attend at all” (p. 6).
Laboratory studies of this behavioral abnormality in patients with schizophrenia came not long after the publication of Dementia Praecox, when the group at Worcester State Hospital led by Shakow, Rodnick, and Huston began publishing reports in the 1930s focusing on the attention loss in schizophrenia. The earliest citation appears to be an abstract Shakow published in the Psychological Bulletin in 1936, entitled “Mental set in schizophrenia studied in a discrimination reaction setting.” This may be the first published report in a psychological journal of impaired attention in schizophrenia.