Extraction of social information from gait in schizophrenia

Type of Publication:
Peterman, Joel S.
Christensen, Andrea
Giese, Martin A.
Park, Sohee
Psychological Medicine

The human face and body are rich sources of socio-emotional cues. Accurate recognition of these cues is central to adaptive social functioning. Past studies indicate that individuals with schizophrenia (SZ) show deficits in the perception of emotion from facial cues but the contribution of bodily cues to social perception in schizophrenia is undetermined. The present study examined the detection of social cues from human gait patterns presented by computer-generated volumetric walking figures. Method A total of 22 SZ and 20 age-matched healthy control participants (CO) viewed 1 s movies of a 'digital' walker's gait and subsequently made a forced-choice decision on the emotional state (angry or happy) or the gender of the walker presented at three intensity levels. Overall sensitivity to the social cues and bias were computed. For SZ, symptom severity was assessed. RESULTS: SZ were less sensitive than CO on both emotion and gender discrimination, regardless of intensity. While impaired overall, greater signal intensity did improve performance of SZ. Neither group differed in their response bias in either condition. The discrimination sensitivity of SZ was unrelated to their social functioning or symptoms but a bias toward perceiving gait as happy was associated with better social functioning. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that SZ are impaired in extracting social information from gait but SZ benefited from increased signal intensity of social cues. Inaccurate perception of social cues in others may hinder adequate preparation for social interactions.