Deficits in Eye Gaze During Negative Social Interactions in Patients With Schizophrenia

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Impaired social functioning has been reported in patients with schizophrenia. This study aimed to examine characteristics of interpersonal behaviors in patients with schizophrenia during various social interactions using the virtual reality system. Twenty-six patients and 26 controls engaged in the virtual conversation tasks, including 3 positive and 3 negative emotion-laden conversations. Eye gaze and other behavioral parameters were recorded during the listening and answering phases. The amount of eye gaze was assessed as smaller in the patients than in the controls. A significant interaction effect of group status and emotional type was found for the listening phase. The amount of eye gaze in the patients inversely correlated with self-rated scores of assertiveness for the listening phase. These results suggest that the patients displayed inadequate levels of augmentations in eye gaze during negative emotional situations. These deficits should be considered in the treatment and social skills training for patients with schizophrenia.

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