How schizophrenia affects social cognition

Impairment in social cognition is one of the main components of schizophrenia, and can deeply affect a patient’s ability to interact with the world. In this article, we’ll explore what social cognition is, how schizophrenia affects social cognition, and possible treatments for social cognitive impairments.

schizophrenia and social cognition

What is social cognition?

Social cognition refers to the cognitive processes involved in any form of socializing. This includes many factors, such as one’s perception of themselves and others, the processing of information in a social context, as well as judgements made around social situations. 

When do we use it? 

We used social cognition in our daily lives to interact with others. When social cognition becomes impaired, it deeply affects the patient’s life because they aren’t able to interact in the way that most other people are interacting. They may not be able to communicate well, or may be unable to accurately perceive communication from others, or a combination of both of these.

How does schizophrenia affect social cognition? 

Social cognition requires individuals to have high functioning executive function skills. These skills include control over behavior, obeying social rules, adapting to new circumstances, decision-making, and self-regulation. Research has found that individuals with schizophrenia often have a deficit in executive functioning. 

The impairments in these skills suggests a dysfunction of the pre-frontal cortex, which is in charge of many complex neural processes. Due to the impairments to these processes caused by schizophrenia, patients can experience impaired facial perception, voice perception, and emotional regulation. They may also have disorganized speech, hallucinations, and many other possible symptoms.

Researchers have studied how schizophrenia affects patients’ mental representations of others. For example, the social cognitive impairments that come along with the condition may cause a patient to have trouble recalling examples of a person being trustworthy, even if the person has shown that they are trustworthy in the past. This then makes way for the decision that the person is untrustworthy.

There is still more to discover about why schizophrenia affects social cogntion. These are just some of the possible social cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, and they can make it very difficult or impossible for the patient to interact with others in a logical way.

Treatment of social cognition impairments

Treatment for schizophrenia typically includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Medication may include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. However, studies have shown that medication may not help with emotion perception, so psychosocial treatments are often utilized to help with some of the social cognitive elements of schizophrenia. 

For example, patients may be asked to perform exercises such as mimicking facial expressions, playing cognitive games, and roleplaying scenarios that they may encounter in real life. Participating in group therapy can be helpful as well, giving patients a safe place to try out cognitive skills gained in therapy.

Our friends at the University of Southern Texas Medical Center are currently working with individuals with schizophrenia. Learn about what Deb is doing by watching her video with our former product specialist Dustin Luchmee.


Social cognition is a key cognitive function, necessary for our daily functioning. Schizophrenia affects social cognition, which can make it exceptionally difficult for patients to interact with the world around them. However, treatment options are available and further research is moving forward. If individuals with schizophrenia work with a trained professional, they may be able to overcome some of the barriers and enhance their social cognition skills.

Aly Castle

Aly is HappyNeuron Pro’s Content Specialist. She is passionate about mental health and well-being and loves utilizing her design background to share important cognitive information clearly and understandably.

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