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122. Social Attention Deficits in Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is associated with impairments in social affiliation, yet our understanding of the mechanisms underlying these disturbances is limited. Individuals may experience social difficulty because they do not attend to social cues in their environment that are necessary for effective communication. The current study examined social attention among thirty-eight outpatients with schizophrenia (SCZ) and 29 healthy controls (CON). Participants completed a spatial cueing task with directional social (eye gaze) cues and nonsocial (arrow) cues at varying cue-to-target stimulus onset asynchronies. Participants were quicker to respond to targets on valid trials (spatially located in the direction of the cue) compared with invalid trials, suggesting that they were engaged in the task. As predicted, SCZ subjects showed impaired orienting to social cues. That is, CON subjects oriented attention towards social cues more readily than nonsocial cues, but SCZ subjects did not exhibit this same pattern. These findings provide evidence of social attention deficits in schizophrenia that may have a downstream effect on other social cognitive abilities involved in social affiliation.