Recent research using individual task settings suggests that a major problem in schizophrenia is a dysfunctional theory of mind system leading to false mental state attributions. However, if a more low-level deficit to integrate own and other's actions (action blindness) is present in schizophrenia is still unknown. Using a social Simon task, we tested if schizophrenia patients have a deficit in self-other integration. Further, we tested for a possible genetic bias of this dysfunction by studying clinically unaffected first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients. While schizophrenia patients showed no Social Simon effect, we found a reliable social Simon effect in healthy participants and first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients. Joint task performance differed statistically between patients and healthy controls. We did not find any differences in the size of the social Simon effects of relatives and healthy controls. The present findings suggest that schizophrenia patients have severe problems with self-other integration, which may lead to problems in social interactions. Since first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients showed a reliable social Simon effect, the evidence for a genetic bias of this social dysfunction in schizophrenia however is weak.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.