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Empathy in schizophrenia: impaired resonance


Haker, H; Rössler, W (2009). Empathy in schizophrenia: impaired resonance. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 259(6):352-361.

Abstract

Resonance is the phenomenon of one person unconsciously mirroring the motor actions as basis of emotional expressions of another person. This shared representation serves as a basis for sharing physiological and emotional states of others and is an important component of empathy. Contagious laughing and contagious yawning are examples of resonance. In the interpersonal contact with individuals with schizophrenia we can often experience impaired empathic resonance. The aim of this study is to determine differences in empathic resonance-in terms of contagion by yawning and laughing-in individuals with schizophrenia and healthy controls in the context of psychopathology and social functioning. We presented video sequences of yawning, laughing or neutral faces to 43 schizophrenia outpatients and 45 sex- and age-matched healthy controls. Participants were video-taped during the stimulation and rated regarding contagion by yawning and laughing. In addition, we assessed self-rated empathic abilities (Interpersonal Reactivity Index), psychopathology (Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale in the schizophrenia group resp. Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire in the control group), social dysfunction (Social Dysfunction Index) and executive functions (Stroop, Fluency). Individuals with schizophrenia showed lower contagion rates for yawning and laughing. Self-rated empathic concern showed no group difference and did not correlate with contagion. Low rate of contagion by laughing correlated with the schizophrenia negative syndrome and with social dysfunction. We conclude that impaired resonance is a handicap for individuals with schizophrenia in social life. Blunted observable resonance does not necessarily reflect reduced subjective empathic concern.

Abstract

Resonance is the phenomenon of one person unconsciously mirroring the motor actions as basis of emotional expressions of another person. This shared representation serves as a basis for sharing physiological and emotional states of others and is an important component of empathy. Contagious laughing and contagious yawning are examples of resonance. In the interpersonal contact with individuals with schizophrenia we can often experience impaired empathic resonance. The aim of this study is to determine differences in empathic resonance-in terms of contagion by yawning and laughing-in individuals with schizophrenia and healthy controls in the context of psychopathology and social functioning. We presented video sequences of yawning, laughing or neutral faces to 43 schizophrenia outpatients and 45 sex- and age-matched healthy controls. Participants were video-taped during the stimulation and rated regarding contagion by yawning and laughing. In addition, we assessed self-rated empathic abilities (Interpersonal Reactivity Index), psychopathology (Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale in the schizophrenia group resp. Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire in the control group), social dysfunction (Social Dysfunction Index) and executive functions (Stroop, Fluency). Individuals with schizophrenia showed lower contagion rates for yawning and laughing. Self-rated empathic concern showed no group difference and did not correlate with contagion. Low rate of contagion by laughing correlated with the schizophrenia negative syndrome and with social dysfunction. We conclude that impaired resonance is a handicap for individuals with schizophrenia in social life. Blunted observable resonance does not necessarily reflect reduced subjective empathic concern.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Clinical and Social Psychiatry Zurich West (former)
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2009
Deposited On:10 Feb 2010 11:25
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:48
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0940-1334
Additional Information:The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-009-0007-3
PubMed ID:19377866

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