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Is Nonverbal Communication Disrupted in Interactions Involving Patients With Schizophrenia?

Lavelle, M., Healey, P. G. T. & McCabe, R. ORCID: 0000-0003-2041-7383 (2013). Is Nonverbal Communication Disrupted in Interactions Involving Patients With Schizophrenia?. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 39(5), pp. 1150-1158. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbs091


Background: Nonverbal communication is a critical feature of successful social interaction and interpersonal rapport. Social exclusion is a feature of schizophrenia. This experimental study investigated if the undisclosed presence of a patient with schizophrenia in interaction changes nonverbal communication (ie, speaker gesture and listener nodding). Method: 3D motion-capture techniques recorded 20 patient (1 patient, 2 healthy participants) and 20 control (3 healthy participants) interactions. Participants rated their experience of rapport with each interacting partner. Patients’ symptoms, social cognition, and executive functioning were assessed. Four hypotheses were tested: (1) Compared to controls, patients display less speaking gestures and listener nods. (2) Patients’ increased symptom severity and poorer social cognition are associated with patients’ reduced gesture and nods. (3) Patients’ partners compensate for patients’ reduced nonverbal behavior by gesturing more when speaking and nodding more when listening. (4) Patients’ reduced nonverbal behavior, increased symptom severity, and poorer social cognition are associated with others experiencing poorer rapport with the patient. Results: Patients gestured less when speaking. Patients with more negative symptoms nodded less as listeners, while their partners appeared to compensate by gesturing more as speakers. Patients with more negative symptoms also gestured more when speaking, which, alongside increased negative symptoms and poorer social cognition, was associated with others experiencing poorer patient rapport. Conclusions: Patients’ symptoms are associated with the nonverbal behavior of patients and their partners. Patients’ increased negative symptoms and gesture use are associated with poorer interpersonal rapport. This study provides specific evidence about how negative symptoms impact patients’ social interactions.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2012 The Author(s).This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited
Publisher Keywords: schizophrenia, nonverbal communication, rap port, symptoms, social exclusion
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

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