In the schizophrenia spectrum, cognitive functions such as perception, language, and attention have been shown to be adversely influenced by negative affect. The present study addressed three issues of specificity and one issue of mechanism regarding affect-related attentional disruption in schizotypy: (1) Is attentional disturbance from negative affective stimuli specific to positive (PS) but not negative schizotypy (NS)? (2) Do positive affective stimuli also foster attentional disturbance? (3) Are anxiety and depression differentially related to PS and NS? (4) Whatever the degree of specificity in these relationships, does anxiety mediate the relationship between schizotypy and attentional disturbance?
Nonpatient participants (N=162) provided responses on scales of schizotypy, anxiety, and depression and performed an emotional Stroop task, judging the ink color of positive, neutral, and negative words.
PS but not NS was associated with poorer attentional performance. This attentional disturbance was specific to negative words. PS was associated with anxiety and depression, whereas NS was associated only with depression. Finally, anxiety and depression did not fully mediate the relationship between PS and attentional interference related to negative affective stimuli.
Findings of attentional disturbance in the presence of negative affective stimuli, particularly in positive schizotypy, have substantial theoretical implications. They provide a path by which the interplay of cognitive and affective phenomena could lead to the formation, maintenance, and exacerbation of positive symptoms, including delusions and hallucinations. Findings from this study also underscore the importance of examining the differential contribution of comorbid anxiety and depression to cognitive and affective function in the schizophrenia spectrum.