conceptual performance in schizophrenia

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    Univeruily of Rochester

    PROBLEM An early statement of conceptual deficit in schirophrenia likened schizophrenic

    conceptual performance to that of brain damage patients who had lost the abstract attitude or the ability to aasume and maintain a mental set(a). A contrasting view is that schizophrenics are not concrete, but have lost opportunities for consensual validation of their thinking through a process of progressive social disarticula- tion(a- '). A result is concepts characterized by extreme breadth and idiosyncrasy. This viewpoint, the overinclusion hypothesis, has found some support(s* 7 *

    Recently, a third hypothesis has been advanced to explain schizophrenic con- ceptual performance'', *). Here, the conceptual deficit is the result of a dmrgan- ization of response hierarchies causing equipotentiality of conceptual responses.

    This study evaluates these three hypotheses and attempts to clarify ambiguity in the overinclusion hypothesis. While some define overinclusion as extreme broad- ness and idiosyncrasy of concept('O), others(s) note the degree to which a concept is broad and, separately, the degree to which it is private or idiosyncratic. Moreover, although intelligence has been shown to covary with concreteness and abstractneas ( l o ) , its relation to overinclusion has not been determined(8* lo).

    o * lo).

    *A vemion of this paper w ~ e resented a t the Eastern Psycholo 'cal Assoc-iation meetings in Philsdelphie April, 1969. The autgors wish to acknowledge Todd R. 8nm for hls lulsistqxe in the conduct of tL xtiidy. Complete tables of the results reported in this study may be obtauied fmm the first niithor.


    METHOD Subjects. Ss were 43 male schizophrenics and 49 normal males. The schizo-

    phrenic Ss were drawn from a VA neuropsychiatric and a state hospital. Schizo- phrenics had to meet these criteria: (1) Undisputed diagnosis of schizophrenia, (2) minimum prorated I& of 80, (3) no history of organic complication, (4) no ECT treatment within the past six months, and (5) hallucinations, delusions or both during the present admission. These criteria resulted in a 41% rejection rate. The final schizophrenic group was characterized by an average hospitalization of 465 days and 2 previous admissions and is matched with a normal control group of non- professional personnel of the VA hospital. Although the normal group is significantly older (44.1 us. 38.1 years, t = 2.727, p < .05), they fall within the same age range for WAIS I& determination.

    Procedure. All Ss were administered the WAIS Vocabulary subtest followed by a counter-balanced presentation of three stimulus arrays (tasks). The first com- posed of three tile squares, each with a colored side of either red, green or blue, from the Goldstein-Scheerer Color Form Sorting Test. The second was three tile geo- metric forms, a square, triangle and circle each with a colored side of blue, green or yellow, derived from the same source as items in Task 1. Finally, a metal scissors, safety pin and thimble constituted the third task.

    Instructions for each of the tasks were: I want to see if you can tell me ten ways in which these three things are the same. Tell me the first way. Responses were recorded verbatim. If a S failed to respond for one minute, he was asked if he knew any other way in which the objects were the same. A negative response or indication that he could discover no further communality terminated the task.

    A continuous response procedure yielded measures of conceptual productivity defined as the number of concepts; the temporal expression of concepts; and the quality of the concepts. The first measure tested the hypothesis that schizophrenics produce fewer concepts than normals. The second measure tested the hypothesis that there are differences in temporal expression of the same kinds of conceptual responses between schizophrenics and normals. The last evaluated the overinclusion hypothesis that schizophrenics concepts are qualitatively distinguishable from those of normals.

    Classification scheme. Each Ss response was categorized mto one of the three groups described below. It should be noted that overinclusion is constituted here by extreme broadness and idiosyncrasy in order to determine their relatedness to each other and to intelligence as well.

    The valid restrictive concept (VR). This category represents concepts in which S uses an equivalence component which E can identify in another object. The con- cept is restrictive and discriminating in that i t applies to a finite subset of all tangible objects. Examples for each of the three tasks respectively are: All are square; All are geometric forms; and All are used in sewing.

    The valid non-restrictive concept (V-R). This category represents concepts which are consensual but indiscriminately inclusive, and speaks to that portion of the over-inclusion hypothesis which is broad rather than personal. Some examples are : All have perimeters; and All can be seen.

    The unique concepl (CJ). This concept represents the idiosyncratic component of the undifferentiated overinclusion concept where S uses an equivalence component which E would not be able to identify in another object. Some examples for each of the three tasks, respectively, are: They wouldnt break easily ; They have value, and I dont have any.

    The definition of this type concept and the 1- concept are adapted from the work of McGaiighran and Moran(*).


    Reliability of the classification scheme. Three judges obtained an 81% unanimous agreement in the classification of 100 responsea chosen equally from both normal and schizophrenic protocols. Unanimous agreement among three judges in placing a response in one of three categories is expected by chance once in 27 times. As there were only two occasions on which one judge differed from the other two, his blind classification was employed in the study.

    RESULT^ Intercorrelations for the three tasks within both groups ranged from .57 to .82,

    revealing consistent performance among the tasks. No difference between the groups on any of the tasks on overall productivity was observed. Therefore, the view that schizophrenics produce fewer concepts than normals was not supported. A comparison of VR, V-R, and U concepts for each task revealed a single significant difference as normals supplied more VR responses to task three (3.78 us. 2.65, t = 2.502, p < .05).

    A response disorganization hypothesis suggests a difference between groups in temporal expression of conceptual responses. Initial (the first half of total re- sponses) and later number of-VR, V-R, and U concepts for each group for each task were compared. The normal group typically gave more VR concepts as initial responses than did the schizophrenic group (Task 1: 3.41 us. 2.86,t = 2.156, p < .05; Task 2: 2.43 US. 1.91, t = 2.153, p < .05; Task 3: 2 . 1 6 ~ ~ . 1.67, 1 = 2.008, p < .05). No differences were observed between the groups for the remaining response cate- gories. However, the normals produced significantly more VR responses in the second half of Task 3 (1.61 us. 1.00, t = 2.500, p < .05).

    Intelligence correlated with total responses (.43 for normals; .43 for schizo- phrenics), the production of consensual concepts (.42 for normals; .50 for schizo- phrenics), and broad concepts (.46 for normals, .25 for schizophrenics). Intelligence was not related to the production of idiosyncratic concepts. The observed correla- tions of


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