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Patients with schizophrenia show increased aversion to angry faces in an associative learning task

  • S. Evans (a1), S. S. Shergill (a2), V. Chouhan (a2), E. Bristow (a2), T. Collier (a2) and B. B. Averbeck (a1) (a3)...

Abstract

Background

We were interested in examining the relationship between socially relevant stimuli and decision processes in patients with schizophrenia.

Method

We tested patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls on a stochastically rewarded associative learning task. Participants had to determine, through trial and error, which of two faces was associated with a higher chance of reward: one face was angry, the other happy.

Results

Both patients and healthy controls were able to perform the task at above-chance accuracy, and there was no significant difference in overall accuracy between the groups. Both groups also reliably preferred the happy face, such that they selected it more often than the angry face on the basis of the same amount of positive versus negative feedback. However, patients were significantly more averse to the angry face, such that they chose it less often than control participants when the reward feedback strongly supported the angry face as the best choice.

Conclusions

Patients show an increased aversion to angry faces, in a task in which they must learn to associate rewards with expressions.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: B. B. Averbeck, Ph.D., Laboratory of Neuropsychology, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA. (Email: averbeckbb@mail.nih.gov)

References

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