Individuals suffering from schizophrenia show social cognitive deficits, that is difficulties in perceiving and understanding the social world. Research shows that schizophrenia is accompanied by social cognition problems such as problems identifying facial expressions, understanding and responding to social cues (e.g., body language), understanding that others have different mental states and thoughts than oneself (also called Theory of mind). These deficits are usually persistent over time and resist pharmacological treatment. Interestingly, social cognition may be trainable. This recent article reviews the research and shows that social cognitive training programs :
- produce a moderate to large improvement in the recognition of facial emotions
- produce a smaller improvement in Theory of mind
- do not improve social perception (such as understanding voice intonation or body language)
The positive effects of training seem to generalized to daily life: the community and institutional functioning of out-patients and in-patients respectively was also observed to improve after training. These are very promising results that complement those showing training effects for schizophrenic patients in other domain of cognition such as attention, executive function, working memory, verbal learning.