Affective Experience and Motivated Behavior in Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders: Evidence From Clinical and Nonclinical Samples

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Objective: Individuals with schizophrenia have been found to exhibit emotion–behavior decoupling, particularly with respect to anticipated, rather than experienced events. However, previous research has focused on how emotion valence translates into motivated behavior, ignoring the fact that emotion arousal should also modulate emotion–behavior coupling. Few studies have examined emotion–behavior coupling in prepsychotic conditions. This investigation aimed to examine the nature and extent of emotion valence– and arousal–behavior coupling across the schizophrenia spectrum. Method: We examine how emotional valence and arousal couple with behavior in 3 groups of individuals (25 individuals with chronic schizophrenia; 27 individuals early in the disease course, and 31 individuals reporting negative schizotypal symptoms). Participants completed a task using slides to elicit emotion and evoke motivated behavior. We compared participants with their respective matched control groups to determine differences in the correspondence between self-reported emotion valence/arousal and motivated behavior. Results: Both groups with schizophrenia reported similar affective experiences as their controls, whereas individuals reporting negative schizotypal symptoms showed “in-the-moment” anhedonia but not emotion–behavior decoupling. In addition, the schizophrenia groups’ affective experiences corresponded less well to their behavior relative to controls. Conclusions: Our findings suggest emotion–behavior decoupling along both valence and arousal dimensions in schizophrenia but not in participants with high levels of schizotypal symptoms. Findings appear to support the idea that emotion–behavior decoupling differs in nature and extent across the schizophrenia spectrum. Interventions to recouple emotion and behavior may be particularly helpful in allowing people with schizophrenia to gain functional independence.

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