Introduction: the ability to use the gaze direction of another person to guide attention is part of a complex construct named Social Cognition. Schizophrenics showed impairments in domains of social cognition.
Aim and objectives: the aim of this study was to investigate whether gaze cueing of attention is compromised in schizophrenic subjects.
Materials and methods: we tested 18 schizophrenics and 18 controls who were presented with gaze and arrow cues in a modified version of the Posner’s spatial cueing paradigm.
Results: The performance of schizophrenics was compromised when the cue is represented by the gaze rather than by the arrow. In fact, our results showed that two groups differ only for gaze condition both in reaction times (F1,34=61.557; p=0.0001) and number of errors (F1,34=6.39; p=0.002). Moreover, the correlation analysis showed that the Eyes Task negatively correlates with invalid condition when the cue was the gaze (r=-0.504, p=0.03). This result underlines the crucial relation between the emotional recognition capacity of the another person’s gaze and the orienting of attention capacity through the interpretation of other people’s gazes. These capacities seem to be precursors for good development of Social Cognition.
Conclusion: Taken together, these findings suggest that schizophrenics showed a specific deficit in social attention, that is part of social cognition construct. Deficit in attention to gaze direction in patients with schizophrenia may contribute to interpersonal and social cognitive difficulties. Thus, the gaze interpretation ability can be considered as an important part in rehabilitation strategies for schizophrenics