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57. Social Cognitive Mechanisms of Loneliness in the Psychosis Spectrum
One of the most robust predictors of reduced well-being among individuals with schizophrenia is loneliness. Correspondingly, members of the general population who experience more subclinical psychosis-like experiences (PLEs) also endorse higher loneliness than their peers. Although this phenomenon spans the psychosis spectrum, it is unclear whether the mechanisms underlying this relationship are consistent across subclinical and clinical populations. Research in loneliness among schizophrenia patients points to a bidirectional relationship with social cognition deficits. Such work has not been extended to subclinical populations, where research has focused on the partial mediating effects of anxiety and depression. This study seeks to uncover how social cognitive mechanisms may affect loneliness in subclinical psychosis, independently or interactionally with mood and anxiety symptoms. We have hypothesized that subtle social cognition deficits among individuals endorsing PLEs lead to elevated perception of social rejection and thus to greater overall feelings of loneliness. Further, we have explored how this pathway may be affected by mood and anxiety symptoms. As part of the Human Connectome Project, generally healthy young adults (n = 1187) reported symptomatology and social functioning and completed the Penn Emotion Recognition Task (ER-40), which tests ability to quickly and accurately identify different emotions. We found that individuals endorsing high levels of PLEs demonstrated elevated levels of loneliness and perceived rejection relative to peers endorsing no PLEs (ps < .001, ds > .5). Levels of anxiety/depression and overall ER-40 performance independently mediated the PLE-Loneliness relationship (b = 2.069, p < .001 and b = 0.068, p = .007, respectively). Further, the relationship between emotion recognition and loneliness is fully mediated by perceived rejection (b = .001, p = .005). Thus, within subclinical populations, psychotic-like symptoms are associated with increased levels of loneliness, which may be partially explained by subtle social cognition deficits contributing to perceived social rejection.