Patients with schizophrenia activate behavioural intentions facilitated by counterfactual reasoning

PLoS One. 2017 Jun 6;12(6):e0178860. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178860. eCollection 2017.


Method: The main variables assessed were: answer to complete a target task (wrong or correctly), and percentage gain in the reaction time (RT) to complete a target task correctly depending on whether the prime was a counterfactual or a neutral-control cue. These variables were assessed in 37 patients with schizophrenia and 37 healthy controls. Potential associations with clinical status and socio-demographic characteristics were also explored.

Results: When a counterfactual prime was presented, the probability of giving an incorrect answer was lower for the entire sample than when a neutral prime was presented (OR 0.58; CI 95% 0.42 to 0.79), but the schizophrenia patients showed a higher probability than the controls of giving an incorrect answer (OR 3.89; CI 95% 2.0 to 7.6). Both the schizophrenia patients and the controls showed a similar percentage gain in RT to a correct answer of 8%.

Conclusions: Challenging the results of previous research, our findings suggest a normal activation of behavioural intentions facilitated by CFT in schizophrenia. Nevertheless, the patients showed more difficulty than the controls with the task, adding support to the concept of CFT as a potential new target for consideration in future therapeutic approaches for this illness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology*

Grant support

Support was provided by Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, the Carlos III Health Institute (PI08/1118) []; University of Barcelona (APIF-UB grants) []. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.