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Threat perception in schizophrenia-spectrum disorders

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 July 2010

School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
School of Psychology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia
Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
School of Psychology, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia
E-mail address:


It has been suggested that, relative to the other basic emotions, the perception of threat-related emotion is disproportionately impaired in schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. Yet research has not assessed how schizophrenia-spectrum disorders affect the ability to make direct appraisals of threat. In the present study, participants with schizophrenia spectrum disorders were compared with controls on two danger rating tasks that involved differentiating between faces and situations normatively judged to be either high or low in threat. It was also assessed whether danger ratings were related to clinical symptoms, as well as performance on an emotion recognition measure that depicted emotions in point-light animation (biological motion). While the two groups did not differ in their ability to differentiate high- from low-danger stimuli, or overall danger attributed to faces, overall danger attributed to situations was greater for the clinical group. The clinical group also showed a selective deficit recognizing fear on the bioemotion task, but only for the control group was recognition of threat-related emotions associated with danger ratings. These data are consistent with other evidence showing that there may be a disconnect between the usual processes used to make inferences regarding potential threat in schizophrenia spectrum disorders. (JINS, 2010, 16, 805–812.)

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Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2010

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