Self-reported social functioning and social cognition in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: Using ecological momentary assessment to identify the origin of bias

Schizophr Res. 2021 Apr;230:17-23. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2021.02.011. Epub 2021 Mar 2.


Objectives: People with schizophrenia (SCZ) and bipolar illness (BPI) generate self-reports of their functioning that diverge from objective information. It has been suggested that these participants do not base such reports on daily experiences, relying on other information. We used ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to sample socially relevant daily activities in SCZ and BPI and related them to self-reported and observer-rated social functioning and social cognitive ability.

Methods: 71 people with (BPI) were compared to 102 people with SCZ. Participants were sampled 3 times per day for 30 days with a smartphone-based survey. Each survey asked where they were, with whom they were, what they were doing, and if they were sad. Participants and observers were asked to provide ratings on social functioning and social cognitive abilities at the end of the EMA period.

Results: There was no association between being home or alone and self-reports of everyday social functioning. In contrast observer ratings were highly correlated with the momentary survey results. Reports of very low levels of sadness were associated with overestimated functioning and participants who were commonly home and alone rated their social functioning as better than participants who were commonly away in the presence of others.

Implications: Both SCZ and BPI were marked by a disconnect between momentary experiences and self-reports. The largest effect was overestimation of functioning by participants who reported no sadness. Experience appears important, as participants who were routinely home and alone reported better social functioning than participants who spent more time others.

Keywords: Activity; Bipolar disorder; Disability; Ecological momentary assessment; Sadness; Schizophrenia.

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder*
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment
  • Humans
  • Schizophrenia*
  • Self Report
  • Social Cognition
  • Social Interaction