Social thinking in schizophrenia

People hospitalized for schizophrenia and other severe mental disorders may benefit from training that fosters their thinking skills in social situations. Such training, rarely provided in schizophrenia rehabilitation programs, deserves further study, according to a report in the October-December 1999 Schizophrenia Bulletin.

At a state psychiatric hospital, psychologist William D. Spaulding of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and his colleagues conducted cognitive-training sessions for 49 patients over a 6-month period, in addition to their regular support programs and medication regimens.

Cognitive training occurred in small groups and focused on learning how to listen carefully to conversation partners and how to recognize different social situations. Another 42 patients received 6 months of group therapy that emphasized emotional support. Nearly all participants had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Up to 1 year after completing therapy, patients who received cognitive training scored higher on tests of attention, memory, and social competence, the researchers say. Scientists have yet to determine whether cognitive training’s effects last longer than 1 year (SN: 4/11/92, p. 239).

Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.