Conditional Reasoning in Schizophrenic Patients


Conditional reasoning (if p then q) is used very frequently in everyday situations. Conditional reasoning is impaired in brain-lesion patients, psychopathy, alcoholism, and polydrug dependence. Many neurocognitive deficits have also been described in schizophrenia. We assessed conditional reasoning in 25 patients with schizophrenia, 25 depressive patients, and 25 controls, using the Wason selection task in three different domains: social contracts, precautionary rules, and descriptive rules. Control measures included depression, anxiety, and severity of schizophrenia measures as a Verbal Intelligence Scale. Patients with schizophrenia were significantly impaired on all conditional reasoning tasks compared to depressives and controls. However, the social contract and precautions tasks yielded better results than the descriptive tasks. Differences between groups disappeared for social contract but remained for precautions and descriptive tasks when verbal intelligence was used as a covariate. These results suggest that domain-specific reasoning mechanisms, proposed by evolutionary psychologists, are relatively resilient in the face of brain network disruptions that impair more general reasoning abilities. Nevertheless, patients with schizophrenia could encounter difficulties understanding precaution rules and social contracts in real-life situations resulting in unwise risk-taking and misunderstandings in the social world.

Keywords: Wason; conditional reasoning; depression; evolutionary; precautionary; schizophrenia; social contract.

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