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Does ‘errorless learning’ compensate for neurocognitive impairments in the work rehabilitation of persons with schizophrenia?

  • R. S. KERN (a1), M. F. GREEN (a1), J. MINTZ (a1) and R. P. LIBERMAN (a1)


Background. Because neurocognitive impairments of schizophrenia appear to be ‘rate limiting’ in the acquisition of skills for community functioning, it is important to develop efficacious rehabilitative interventions that can compensate for these impairments. Procedures based on errorless learning may facilitate work rehabilitation because they effectively automate training of work and other skills, thereby reducing the cognitive burden on persons with schizophrenia.

Method. The present study examined the ability of a training method based on errorless learning to compensate for neurocognitive deficits in teaching two entry-level job tasks (index card filing and toilet-tank assembly) to a sample of 54 unemployed, clinically stable schizophrenic and schizoaffective disorder out-patients. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two training groups, errorless learning v. conventional trial-and-error type instruction. Prior to randomization, all subjects were administered a neurocognitive battery. Job task performance was assessed by percentage accuracy scores immediately after training.

Results. For three of the six inter-relationships among neurocognitive functioning and training condition, the pattern was the same: the errorless learning group scored high in job task performance regardless of neurocognitive impairment, whereas the conventional instruction group showed a close correspondence between job task performance and degree of neurocognitive impairment.

Conclusions. These findings support errorless learning as a technique that can compensate for neurocognitive deficits as they relate to the acquisition of new skills and abilities in the work rehabilitation of persons with schizophrenia.


Corresponding author

Dr Robert S. Kern, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare Center (MIRECC 210 A), 11301 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90073, USA.


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