Schizophrenia, Narrative, and Neurocognition: The Utility of Life-Stories in Understanding Social Problem-Solving Skills

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Abstract

Objective: Schizophrenia researchers have focused on phenomenological aspects of the disorder to better understand its underlying nature. In particular, development of personal narratives—that is, the complexity with which people form, organize, and articulate their “life stories”—has recently been investigated in individuals with schizophrenia. However, less is known about how aspects of narrative relate to indicators of neurocognitive and social functioning. The objective of the present study was to investigate the association of linguistic complexity of life-story narratives to measures of cognitive and social problem-solving abilities among people with schizophrenia. Method: Thirty-two individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia completed a research battery consisting of clinical interviews, a life-story narrative, neurocognitive testing, and a measure assessing multiple aspects of social problem solving. Narrative interviews were assessed for linguistic complexity using computerized technology. Results: The results indicate differential relationships of linguistic complexity and neurocognition to domains of social problem-solving skills. More specifically, although neurocognition predicted how well one could both describe and enact a solution to a social problem, linguistic complexity alone was associated with accurately recognizing that a social problem had occurred. In addition, linguistic complexity appears to be a cognitive factor that is discernible from other broader measures of neurocognition. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: Linguistic complexity may be more relevant in understanding earlier steps of the social problem-solving process than more traditional, broad measures of cognition, and thus is relevant in conceptualizing treatment targets. These findings also support the relevance of developing narrative-focused psychotherapies.

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