The Efficacy of Attentional Prompts in Modifying Emotion Perception Deficits

Research project


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): One of the most consistent deficits found in schizophrenia is in recognizing the emotional states of others (emotion perception). Problems in emotion perception are thought to contribute heavily to the social impairments characteristic of schizophrenia. Despite the number of studies on emotion perception, there has been little research on effective intervention methods to improve these deficits. Recent research has suggested that attention is an important component of emotion perception and may be a possible avenue to improve this skill. When viewing emotional expressions, persons with schizophrenia tend to view non- essential parts of the face instead of looking at more relevant areas (eyes and mouth), which are believed to be crucial to emotion perception. Thus, it may be possible to improve emotion perception by directing attention to more relevant facial features. The purpose of this study is to examine the efficacy of a novel cognitive treatment approach, which uses attentional prompts to improve emotion perception abilities. A total of forty-five participants with schizophrenia will be randomly assigned to one of three intervention conditions: 1) an attention-shaping condition in which an attentional prompt (a cross) along with monetary reinforcement for correct responses will be used to direct attention to the face, 2) a monetary reinforcement only condition, or 3) a repeated practice condition. It is hypothesized that the attentional prompt condition will result in larger improvements in emotion perception scores than the two comparison interventions. In addition, it is predicted that the attentional prompt condition will generalize to improvement on an additional measure of emotion perception, which was not used in the intervention, and to improvement in social functioning as rated by treatment staff. Schizophrenia is a major public health concern and treatments that lessen the effects of the disorder on social functioning would be valuable. An improvement in emotion perception skills may lead to better interpersonal relationships and more adaptive social functioning.
Effective start/end date9/1/068/31/08


  • National Institutes of Health: $59,261.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $7,840.00


Public Health


  • Medicine(all)