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Social Cognition Deficit in Schizophrenia: Accounting for Pragmatic Deficits in Communication Abilities?

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Schizophrenic individuals show impairments in language affecting what is referred to as the pragmatic component of language, typically the processing of non-literal language (e.g., irony, metaphor, indirect request). Such non-literal utterances require the ability to process the speaker's utterance beyond its literal meaning in order to allow one to grasp the speaker's intention by reference to the contextual information. This paper gives a selective literature review showing that different cognitive processes-specific to language or not-may underlie the processing of pragmatic aspects of language, and particularly of non-literal language in schizophrenia. Indeed, the fact that many other disorders (e.g., right hemisphere lesion, traumatic brain injury, autism) are characterized by pragmatic impairments may reflect a heterogeneous range of underlying functional deficits that have to be determined. Evidence is reviewed suggesting that cooccurrence of a deficit in non-literal language understanding and a deficit in theory of mind may be accounted for by an impairment in context processing associated with a lack of flexibility.

Keywords: Social cognition; context; executive function; non-literal language; schizophrenia; theory of mind

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Hopital du Sacre-Coeur de Montreal-Pavillon Albert-Prevost, 6555, boul. Gouin Ouest, Montreal,Quebec, H4K 1B3, Canada.

Publication date: August 1, 2006

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  • Current Psychiatry Reviews publishes frontier reviews on all the latest advances on clinical psychiatry and its related areas e.g. pharmacology, epidemiology, clinical care, and therapy. The journal's aim is to publish the highest quality review articles dedicated to clinical research in the field. The journal is essential reading for all clinicians, psychiatrists and researchers in psychiatry.
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