Skip to main content Accessibility help

Face emotion recognition is related to individual differences in psychosis-proneness

  • L. T. Germine (a1) and C. I. Hooker (a1)



Deficits in face emotion recognition (FER) in schizophrenia are well documented, and have been proposed as a potential intermediate phenotype for schizophrenia liability. However, research on the relationship between psychosis vulnerability and FER has mixed findings and methodological limitations. Moreover, no study has yet characterized the relationship between FER ability and level of psychosis-proneness. If FER ability varies continuously with psychosis-proneness, this suggests a relationship between FER and polygenic risk factors.


We tested two large internet samples to see whether psychometric psychosis-proneness, as measured by the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire-Brief (SPQ-B), is related to differences in face emotion identification and discrimination or other face processing abilities.


Experiment 1 (n=2332) showed that psychosis-proneness predicts face emotion identification ability but not face gender identification ability. Experiment 2 (n=1514) demonstrated that psychosis-proneness also predicts performance on face emotion but not face identity discrimination. The tasks in Experiment 2 used identical stimuli and task parameters, differing only in emotion/identity judgment. Notably, the relationships demonstrated in Experiments 1 and 2 persisted even when individuals with the highest psychosis-proneness levels (the putative high-risk group) were excluded from analysis.


Our data suggest that FER ability is related to individual differences in psychosis-like characteristics in the normal population, and that these differences cannot be accounted for by differences in face processing and/or visual perception. Our results suggest that FER may provide a useful candidate intermediate phenotype.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: L. T. Germine, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. (Email:


Hide All
Addington, J, Addington, D (1998). Facial affect recognition and information processing in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Schizophrenia Research 32, 171181.
Adolphs, R (2002). Neural systems for recognizing emotion. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 12, 169177.
Aguirre, F, Sergi, MJ, Levy, CA (2008). Emotional intelligence and social functioning in persons with schizotypy. Schizophrenia Research 104, 255264.
Aleman, A, Kahn, R (2005). Strange feelings: do amygdala abnormalities dysregulate the emotional brain in schizophrenia? Progress in Neurobiology 77, 283298.
Arndt, S, Alliger, R, Andreasen, N (1991). The distinction of positive and negative symptoms. The failure of a two-dimensional model. British Journal of Psychiatry 158, 317322.
Bediou, B, Asri, F, Brunelin, J, Krolak-Salmon, P, D'Amato, T, Saoud, M, Tazi, I (2007). Emotion recognition and genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia. British Journal of Psychiatry 191, 126130.
Birnbaum, MH (2004). Human research and data collection via the internet. Annual Review of Psychology 55, 803832.
Bowles, DC, McKone, E, Dawel, A, Duchaine, B, Palermo, R, Schmalzl, L, Rivolta, D, Wilson, CE (2009). Diagnosing prosopagnosia: effects of aging, sex, and participant stimulus ethnic match on the Cambridge Face Memory Test and Cambridge Face Perception Test. Cognitive Neuropsychology 26, 423455.
Braff, D, Freedman, R, Schork, N, Gottesman, I (2007). Deconstructing schizophrenia: an overview of the use of endophenotypes in order to understand a complex disorder. Schizophrenia Bulletin 33, 2132.
Brunet-Gouet, E, Decety, J (2006). Social brain dysfunctions in schizophrenia: a review of neuroimaging studies. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 148, 7592.
Chapman, L, Chapman, J (1980). Scales for rating psychotic and psychotic-like experiences as continua. Schizophrenia Bulletin 6, 477489.
Claridge, G (1997). Theoretical background and issues. In Schizotypy: Implications for Illness and Health (ed. Claridge, G.), pp. 3–18. Oxford University Press: New York.
Duchaine, BC, Nakayama, K (2004). Developmental prosopagnosia and the Benton Facial Recognition Test. Neurology 62, 12191220.
Edwards, J, Pattison, PE, Jackson, HJ, Wales, RJ (2001). Facial affect and affective prosody recognition in first-episode schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research 48, 235253.
Ekman, P, Friesen, WV (1976). Measuring facial movement. Environmental Psychology and Nonverbal Behavior 1, 5675.
Eysenck, HJ (1960). Classification and the problem of diagnosis. In Handbook of Abnormal Psychology (ed. Eysenck, H. J.), pp. 131. Pitman: London.
Foxe, J, Murray, M, Javitt, D (2005). Filling-in in schizophrenia: a high-density electrical mapping and source-analysis investigation of illusory contour processing. Cerebral Cortex 15, 19141927.
Garrido, L, Furl, N, Draganski, B, Weiskopf, N, Stevens, J, Tan, G, Driver, J, Dolan, R, Duchaine, B (2009). Voxel-based morphometry reveals reduced grey matter volume in the temporal cortex of developmental prosopagnosics. Brain 132, 34433455.
Gosling, SD, Vazire, S, Srivastava, S, John, OP (2004). Should we trust web-based studies? A comparative analysis of six preconceptions about internet questionnaires. American Psychologist 59, 93–104.
Gottesman, I, Gould, T (2003). The endophenotype concept in psychiatry: etymology and strategic intentions. American Journal of Psychiatry 160, 636645.
Gottesman, I, Shields, J (1967). A polygenic theory of schizophrenia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 58, 199205.
Gur, RE, Calkins, ME, Gur, RC, Horan, WP, et al. (2007 a). The consortium on the genetics of schizophrenia: neurocognitive endophenotypes. Schizophrenia Bulletin 33, 4968.
Gur, RE, Nimgaonkar, VL, Almasy, L, Calkins, ME, et al. (2007 b). Neurocognitive endophenotypes in a multiplex multigenerational family study of schizophrenia. American Journal of Psychiatry 164, 813819.
Haworth, C, Harlaar, N, Kovas, Y, Davis, O, Oliver, B, Hayiou-Thomas, M, Frances, J, Busfield, P, McMillan, A, Dale, P, Plomin, R (2007). Internet cognitive testing of large samples needed in genetic research. Twin Research and Human Genetics 10, 554563.
Haxby, JV, Hoffman, EA, Gobbini, MI (2000). The distributed human neural system for face perception. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4, 223233.
Herbener, ES, Hill, SK, Marvin, RW, Sweeney, JA (2005). Effects of antipsychotic treatment on emotion perception deficits in first-episode schizophrenia. American Journal of Psychiatry 162, 17461748.
Hooker, C, Park, S (2002). Emotion processing and its relationship to social functioning in schizophrenia patients. Psychiatry Research 112, 4150.
Irwin, HJ (2001). The relationship between dissociative tendencies and schizotypy: an artifact of childhood trauma? Journal of Clinical Psychology 57, 331342.
Ivleva, E, Morris, D, Moates, A, Suppes, T, Thaker, G, Tamminga, C (2010). Genetics and intermediate phenotypes of the schizophrenia–bipolar disorder boundary. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 34, 897921.
Jahshan, CS, Sergi, MJ (2007). Theory of mind, neurocognition, and functional status in schizotypy. Schizophrenia Research 89, 278286.
Kee, K, Horan, W, Mintz, J, Green, M (2004). Do the siblings of schizophrenia patients demonstrate affect perception deficits? Schizophrenia Research 67, 8794.
Kendler, KS, Walsh, D (1995). Schizotypal personality disorder in parents and the risk for schizophrenia in siblings. Schizophrenia Bulletin 21, 4752.
Kohler, CG, Brennan, AR (2004). Recognition of facial emotions in schizophrenia. Current Opinion in Psychiatry 17, 8186.
Kraut, R, Olson, J, Banaji, M, Bruckman, A, Cohen, J, Couper, M (2004). Psychological research online: report of Board of Scientific Affairs' Advisory Group on the Conduct of Research on the Internet. American Psychologist 59, 105117.
Kremen, WS, Faraone, SV, Toomey, R, Seidman, LJ, Tsuang, MT (1998). Sex differences in self-reported schizotypal traits in relatives of schizophrenic probands. Schizophrenia Research 34, 2737.
Kwapil, TR (1998). Social anhedonia as a predictor of the development of schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 107, 558565.
Kwapil, TR, Miller, MB, Zinser, MC, Chapman, J, Chapman, LJ (1997). Magical ideation and social anhedonia as predictors of psychosis proneness: a partial replication. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 106, 491495.
Leppanen, JM (2006). Emotional information processing in mood disorders: a review of behavioral and neuroimaging findings. Current Opinion in Psychiatry 19, 3439.
Mandal, MK, Pandey, R, Prasad, AB (1998). Facial expressions of emotions and schizophrenia: a review. Schizophrenia Bulletin 24, 399412.
McClure, EB (2000). A meta-analytic review of sex differences in facial expression processing and their development in infants, children, and adolescents. Psychological Bulletin 126, 424453.
McClure, EB, Pope, K, Hoberman, AJ, Pine, DS, Leibenluft, E (2003). Facial expression recognition in adolescents with mood and anxiety disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry 160, 11721174.
McGraw, KO, Tew, MD, Williams, JE (2000). The integrity of Web-delivered experiments: can you trust the data? Psychological Science 11, 502506.
Meehl, PE (1962). Schizotaxia, schizotypy, schizophrenia. American Psychologist 17, 827838.
Meehl, PE (1990). Toward an integrated theory of schizotaxia, schizotypy, and schizophrenia. Journal of Personality Disorders 4, 199.
Meyer-Lindenberg, A, Weinberger, D (2006). Intermediate phenotypes and genetic mechanisms of psychiatric disorders. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience 7, 818827.
Mikhailova, ES, Vladimirova, TV, Iznak, AF, Tsusulkovskaya, EJ (1996). Abnormal recognition of facial expression of emotions in depressed patients with major depression disorder and schizotypal personality disorder. Biological Psychiatry 40, 697705.
Mueser, KT, Penn, DL, Blanchard, JJ, Bellack, AS (1997). Affect recognition in schizophrenia: a synthesis of findings across three studies. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes 60, 301308.
Owen, AM, Hampshire, A, Grahn, JA, Stenton, R, Sajan, S, Burns, AS, Howard, RJ, Ballard, CG (2010). Putting brain training to the test. Nature 465, 775778.
Phillips, LK, Seidman, LJ (2008). Emotion processing in persons at risk for schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin 34, 888903.
Pitcher, D, Garrido, L, Walsh, V, Duchaine, B (2008). Transcranial magnetic stimulation disrupts the perception and embodiment of facial expressions. Journal of Neuroscience 28, 89298933.
Poreh, AM, Whitman, RD, Weber, M, Ross, T (1994). Facial recognition in hypothetically schizotypic college students: the role of generalized poor performance. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 182, 503507.
Purcell, S, Wray, N, Stone, J, Visscher, P, O'Donovan, M, Sullivan, P, Sklar, P (2009). Common polygenic variation contributes to risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Nature 460, 748752.
Raine, A (1991). The SPQ: a scale for the assessment of schizotypal personality based on DSM-III-R criteria. Schizophrenia Bulletin 17, 555564.
Raine, A (2006). Schizotypal personality: neurodevelopmental and psychosocial trajectories. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 2, 291326.
Raine, A, Benishay, D (1995). The SPQ-B: a brief screening instrument for schizotypal personality disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders 9, 346355.
Shi, J, Levinson, D, Duan, J, Sanders, A, Zheng, Y, Pe'er, I, Dudbridge, F, Holmans, P, Whittemore, A, Mowry, B, Olincy, A, Amin, F, Cloninger, C, Silverman, J, Buccola, N, Byerley, W, Black, D, Crowe, R, Oksenberg, J, Mirel, D, Kendler, K, Freedman, R, Gejman, P (2009). Common variants on chromosome 6p22.1 are associated with schizophrenia. Nature 460, 753757.
Stefansson, H, Ophoff, R, Steinberg, S, Andreassen, O, Cichon, S, Rujescu, D, Werge, T, Pietiläinen, O, Mors, O, Mortensen, P, Sigurdsson, E, Gustafsson, O, Nyegaard, M, Tuulio-Henriksson, A, Ingason, A, Hansen, T, Suvisaari, J, Lonnqvist, J, Paunio, T, Børglum, A, Hartmann, A, Fink-Jensen, A, Nordentoft, M, Hougaard, D, Norgaard-Pedersen, B, Böttcher, Y, Olesen, J, Breuer, R, Möller, H, Giegling, I, Rasmussen, H, Timm, S, Mattheisen, M, Bitter, I, Réthelyi, J, Magnusdottir, B, Sigmundsson, T, Olason, P, Masson, G, Gulcher, J, Haraldsson, M, Fossdal, R, Thorgeirsson, T, Thorsteinsdottir, U, Ruggeri, M, Tosato, S, Franke, B, Strengman, E, Kiemeney, L, Melle, I, Djurovic, S, Abramova, L, Kaleda, V, Sanjuan, J, de Frutos, R, Bramon, E, Vassos, E, Fraser, G, Ettinger, U, Picchioni, M, Walker, N, Toulopoulou, T, Need, A, Ge, D, Yoon, J, Shianna, K, Freimer, N, Cantor, R, Murray, R, Kong, A, Golimbet, V, Carracedo, A, Arango, C, Costas, J, Jönsson, E, Terenius, L, Agartz, I, Petursson, H, Nöthen, M, Rietschel, M, Matthews, P, Muglia, P, Peltonen, L, St Clair, D, Goldstein, D, Stefansson, K, Collier, D (2009). Common variants conferring risk of schizophrenia. Nature 460, 744747.
Steiger, JH (1980). Tests for comparing elements of a correlation matrix. Psychological Bulletin 87, 245251.
Toomey, R, Schuldberg, D (1995). Recognition and judgment of facial stimuli in schizotypal subjects. Journal of Communication Disorders 28, 193203.
Tsuang, MT, Stone, WS, Faraone, SV (1999). Schizophrenia: a review of genetic studies. Harvard Review of Psychiatry 7, 185207.
van ‘t Wout, M, Aleman, A, Kessels, RPC, Laroi, F, Kahn, RS (2004). Emotional processing in a non-clinical psychosis-prone sample. Schizophrenia Research 68, 271281.
Vollema, MG, Sitskoorn, MM, Appels, MCM, Kahn, RS (2002). Does the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire reflect the biological-genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia? Schizophrenia Research 54, 3945.
Waldeck, TL, Miller, LS (2000). Social skills deficits in schizotypal personality disorder. Psychiatry Research 93, 237246.
Williams, BT, Henry, JD, Green, MJ (2007). Facial affect recognition and schizotypy. Early Intervention in Psychiatry 1, 177182.
Wilmer, J, Germine, L, Chabris, C, Chatterjee, G, Nakayama, K, Williams, M, Loken, E, Duchaine, B (2010). Human face recognition ability is highly heritable. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107, 52385241.
Yoon, J, D'Esposito, M, Carter, C (2006). Preserved function of the fusiform face area in schizophrenia as revealed by fMRI. Psychiatry Research 148, 205216.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed