Words Matter: Implementing the Electronically Activated Recorder in Schizotypy

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In schizophrenia-spectrum populations, analyzing the words people use has offered promise for unlocking information about affective states and social behaviors. The electronically activated recorder (EAR) is an application-based program that is combined with widely used smartphone technology to capture a person’s real-world interactions via audio recordings. It improves on the ecological validity of current methodologies by providing objective and naturalistic samples of behavior. This study is the first to implement the EAR in people endorsing elevated traits of schizophrenia-spectrum personality disorders (i.e., schizotypy), and we expected the EAR to (a) differentiate high and low schizotypy groups on affective disturbances and social engagement and (b) show that high schizotypy status moderates links between affect and social behavior using a multimethod approach. Lexical analysis of EAR recordings revealed greater negative affect and decreased social engagement in those high in schizotypy. When assessing specific traits, EAR and ecological momentary assessment (EMA) converged to show that positive schizotypy predicted negative affect. Finally, high schizotypy status moderated links between negative affect and social engagement when the EAR was combined with EMA. Adherence did not influence results, as both groups wore the EAR more than 90% of their waking hours. Findings supported using the EAR to assess real-world expressions of personality and functioning in schizotypy. Evidence also showed that the EAR can be used alongside EMA to provide a mixed-method, real-world assessment that is high in ecological validity and offers a window into the daily lives of those with elevated traits of schizophrenia-spectrum personality disorders.

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