Empathic accuracy and cognition in schizotypal personality disorder

Psychiatry Res. 2013 Nov 30;210(1):232-41. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2013.05.025. Epub 2013 Jun 28.


Interpersonal dysfunction contributes to significant disability in the schizophrenia spectrum. Schizotypal Personality Disorder (SPD) is a schizophrenia-related personality demonstrating social cognitive impairment in the absence of frank psychosis. Past research indicates that cognitive dysfunction or schizotypy may account for social cognitive dysfunction in this population. We tested SPD subjects and healthy controls on the Empathic Accuracy (EA) paradigm and the Reading of the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), assessing the impact of EA on social support. We also explored whether EA differences could be explained by intelligence, working memory, trait empathy, or attachment avoidance. SPD subjects did not differ from controls in RMET, but demonstrated lower EA during negative valence videos, associated with lower social support. Dynamic, multimodal EA paradigms may be more effective at capturing interpersonal dysfunction than static image tasks such as RMET. Schizotypal severity, trait empathy, and cognitive dysfunction did not account for empathic dysfunction in SPD, although attachment avoidance is related to empathic differences. Empathic dysfunction for negative affect contributes to decreased social support in the schizophrenia spectrum. Future research may shed further light on potential links between attachment avoidance, empathic dysfunction, and social support.

Keywords: Attachment; Empathy; Personality; Schizotypal personality disorder; Social support; Working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Empathy / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Personality Inventory
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder / complications*
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Social Behavior
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult