Schizotypy and facial emotion processing

Coy, Abbie L (2013) Schizotypy and facial emotion processing. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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The ability to accurately interpret facial emotion is crucial to social being and our capacity to correctly interpret threat-related expressions has obvious adaptive value. Healthy individuals appear to process facial emotions rapidly, accurately and effortlessly, while individuals with schizophrenia often present with marked impairment in emotion processing. The hypothesis of continuity between schizophrenia and normal behaviour suggests that the signs and symptoms of the disorder also occur to varying, lesser degrees in the general population. This thesis presents a series of studies that explore the limits of facial emotion processing in healthy individuals, and its relationship with schizotypal personality traits.

The first paper describes a set of three studies that use eye tracking techniques to explore the limits of rapid emotion processing. It is shown that we can quickly orient attention towards emotional faces even when the faces are task-irrelevant, presented for very brief intervals, and located well into peripheral vision. The remaining studies explore whether high schizotypes have similarities to individuals with schizophrenia in the way that they process facial emotion. High schizotypes were significantly less accurate at discriminating facial emotions and significantly more likely to misperceive neutral faces as angry, offering support for continuum models of visual hallucinatory experiences. A further study revealed that high relative to low schizoptypes feel as though they are exposed to angry faces for longer. It is argued that this experience itself may serve to maintain hypervigilance to social threat. Finally, laterality biases during face perception were explored. Contrary to the predictions of continuum models of schizophrenia, high schizotypes had an increased left side / right hemisphere bias for face processing.

In summary, the thesis offers partial support for the hypothesis of continuity between the impairments in emotion discrimination observed in individuals with schizophrenia, and normal, healthy variation in facial emotion processing.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0697 Differential psychology. Individuality. Self
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2013 14:09
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 15:17

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