Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Facial emotion processing in schizophrenia: a non-specific neuropsychological deficit?

E. Pomarol-Cloteta1 c1, F. Hynesa2, C. Ashwina3, E. T. Bullmorea4, P. J. McKennaa1 and K. R. Lawsa5

a1 Benito Menni Complex Assistencial Salut Mental, Barcelona, and CIBERSAM, Spain

a2 Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust, Birmingham, UK

a3 Department of Psychology, University of Bath, UK

a4 Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke's Hospital, UK

a5 School of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, UK


Background Identification of facial emotions has been found to be impaired in schizophrenia but there are uncertainties about the neuropsychological specificity of the finding.

Method Twenty-two patients with schizophrenia and 20 healthy controls were given tests requiring identification of facial emotion, judgement of the intensity of emotional expressions without identification, familiar face recognition and the Benton Facial Recognition Test (BFRT). The schizophrenia patients were selected to be relatively intellectually preserved.

Results The patients with schizophrenia showed no deficit in identifying facial emotion, although they were slower than the controls. They were, however, impaired on judging the intensity of emotional expression without identification. They showed impairment in recognizing familiar faces but not on the BFRT.

Conclusions When steps are taken to reduce the effects of general intellectual impairment, there is no deficit in identifying facial emotions in schizophrenia. There may, however, be a deficit in judging emotional intensity. The impairment found in naming familiar faces is consistent with other evidence of semantic memory impairment in the disorder.

(Received March 09 2009)

(Revised July 14 2009)

(Accepted August 07 2009)

(Online publication September 24 2009)


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr E. Pomarol-Clotet, Benito Menni Complex Assistencial en Salut Mental, Germanes Hospitalàries del Sagrat Cor de Jesús, C/Doctor Antoni Pujades 38-C, 08830 Sant Boi de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain. (Email: