Emotional context processing is impaired in schizophrenia

Melissa Jayne Green*, Jennifer H. Waldron, Max Coltheart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction. Following considerable evidence for impaired context processing and facial emotion recognition in schizophrenia, this study examined the ability of schizophrenia patients to utilise contextual information when judging the meaning of facial expressions. Methods. 22 healthy and 20 schizophrenia participants completed the "vignette-face" task (Carroll & Russell, 1996) in which target facial expressions are preceded by vignettes describing situational information that is discrepant in affective valence; judgements reflect either the dominance of the emotional context or the facial expression. Measures of basic facial emotion recognition and executive function were also obtained. Results. On the vignette-face task, schizophrenia patients did not utilise contextual information for specific story-face pairs, whereas controls more commonly judged the emotion in line with contextual information. Most consistently, the responses of schizophrenia patients reflected neither situational nor facial cues when contextual cues suggested a complex mental state paired with a negative or threat-related expression (e.g., anger, fear, sadness). Facial affect processing ability was a significant predictor of the successful social context integration in the vignette-face task. Conclusion. The reduced influence of context upon threat-related expressions in schizophrenia may contribute to the misperception of threat in situations where contextual information should appease such an interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-280
Number of pages22
JournalCognitive Neuropsychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2007

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