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Comprehensive comparison of social cognitive performance in autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 October 2019

Amy E. Pinkham*
Affiliation:
School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The University of Texas At Dallas, Richardson, TX, USA Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, TX, USA
Kerrianne E. Morrison
Affiliation:
School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The University of Texas At Dallas, Richardson, TX, USA
David L. Penn
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA School of Behavioural and Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Philip D. Harvey
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA Research Service, Miami VA Healthcare System, Miami, FL, USA
Skylar Kelsven
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, San Diego State University/University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA
Kelsey Ludwig
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Noah J. Sasson
Affiliation:
School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The University of Texas At Dallas, Richardson, TX, USA
*
Author for correspondence: Amy E. Pinkham, E-mail: amy.pinkham@utdallas.edu

Abstract

Background

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia (SCZ) are separate neurodevelopmental disorders that are both characterized by difficulties in social cognition and social functioning. Due to methodological confounds, the degree of similarity in social cognitive impairments across these two disorders is currently unknown. This study therefore conducted a comprehensive comparison of social cognitive ability in ASD and SCZ to aid efforts to develop optimized treatment programs.

Methods

In total, 101 individuals with ASD, 92 individuals with SCZ or schizoaffective disorder, and 101 typically developing (TD) controls, all with measured intelligence in the normal range and a mean age of 25.47 years, completed a large battery of psychometrically validated social cognitive assessments spanning the domains of emotion recognition, social perception, mental state attribution, and attributional style.

Results

Both ASD and SCZ performed worse than TD controls, and very few differences were evident between the two clinical groups, with effect sizes (Cohen's d) ranging from 0.01 to 0.34. For those effects that did reach statistical significance, such as greater hostility in the SCZ group, controlling for symptom severity rendered them non-significant, suggesting that clinical distinctions may underlie these social cognitive differences. Additionally, the strength of the relationship between neurocognitive and social cognitive performance was of similar, moderate size for ASD and SCZ.

Conclusions

Findings largely suggest comparable levels of social cognitive impairment in ASD and SCZ, which may support the use of existing social cognitive interventions across disorders. However, future work is needed to determine whether the mechanisms underlying these shared impairments are also similar or if these common behavioral profiles may emerge via different pathways.

Type
Original Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

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