Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Facial emotion recognition in adolescents with psychotic-like experiences: a school-based sample from the general population

S. Roddya1 c1, L. Tiedta1, I. Kellehera1, M. C. Clarkea1, J. Murphya1, C. Rawdona2, R. A. P. Rochea2, M. E. Calkinsa3, J. A. Richarda3, C. G. Kohlera3 and M. Cannona2a4

a1 Department of Psychiatry, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland

a2 School of Psychology, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland

a3 Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

a4 Department of Psychiatry, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland


Background Psychotic symptoms, also termed psychotic-like experiences (PLEs) in the absence of psychotic disorder, are common in adolescents and are associated with increased risk of schizophrenia-spectrum illness in adulthood. At the same time, schizophrenia is associated with deficits in social cognition, with deficits particularly documented in facial emotion recognition (FER). However, little is known about the relationship between PLEs and FER abilities, with only one previous prospective study examining the association between these abilities in childhood and reported PLEs in adolescence. The current study was a cross-sectional investigation of the association between PLEs and FER in a sample of Irish adolescents.

Method The Adolescent Psychotic-Like Symptom Screener (APSS), a self-report measure of PLEs, and the Penn Emotion Recognition-40 Test (Penn ER-40), a measure of facial emotion recognition, were completed by 793 children aged 10–13 years.

Results Children who reported PLEs performed significantly more poorly on FER (β=−0.03, p=0.035). Recognition of sad faces was the major driver of effects, with children performing particularly poorly when identifying this expression (β=−0.08, p=0.032).

Conclusions The current findings show that PLEs are associated with poorer FER. Further work is needed to elucidate causal relationships with implications for the design of future interventions for those at risk of developing psychosis.

(Received April 05 2011)

(Revised December 20 2011)

(Accepted February 02 2012)

(Online publication February 28 2012)


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr S. Roddy, Department of Psychiatry, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Education and Research Centre, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, Ireland. (Email: