The term social perception refers to the individual’s ability to identify social roles, social rules and social contexts (Green and Horan, 2010). It refers to perceptual processes related to the subject’s ability to direct his or her attention to those key signals that can serve to adequately interpret the different social situations in which he or she is included.
It involves two phases, the first of which is based on the categorization of perceived behavior; the second is related to the assessment of whether such behavior is due to stable states or contextual factors, this phase being the one that provides the subject with the highest cost, since it requires an attributional assessment (Bellack, Blanchard and Mueser, 1996; Newman and Uleman, 1993).
Social perception is generally associated with another domain of social cognition called social knowledge or social scheme, considered as the ability to identify the various components that may constitute a social situation (Corrigan and Green, 1993; Green et al., 2005).
For the subject to be able to correctly identify the social signals of a given context, it is essential that he or she has knowledge about what is habitual in that situation. Therefore, social knowledge is the capacity that allows the individual to orient himself in a social situation guiding him with respect to the role he occupies, the rules he must follow, the reasons why he is in such situation and the behavior he must show in it.
Some tests are intended to measure social perception and others social knowledge. The following tests have been commonly used to measure these components:
Social Cues Recognition Test (SCRT) (Corrigan and Green, 1993):
Designed to measure social perception. It consists of eight two- to three-minute situations, presented to the subject on video, in which two or three people appear to be talking to each other. After the visualization of each situation, a questionnaire consisting of 36 true or false questions about the presence of concrete and abstract social indications has to be answered.
Videotape Affect Perception Test (VAPT) (Bellack y cols, 1996):
Measures social perception. It presents the subjects with 30 scenes from movies and television programs in which a brief interaction between two people appears, one of which presents affective responses that can range from very pleasant to very unpleasant. After each one of these scenes, the pleasantness – unpleasantness and activation – shaking of these scenes has to be evaluated in a scale of nine points. Finally, we are asked to evaluate the scene by choosing the basic emotion that best suits it.
The Half-Profile of Nonverbal Sensivity (PONS) (Ambady, Hallahan y Rosenthal, 1995; Rosenthal y cols, 1979):
Instrument designed to measure social perception. It consists of 110 video scenes containing facial expressions, intonations and gestures made by a woman. After the visualization of each scene, the subject is given two possible responses and has to choose which of the two best describes the exposed situation.
Relationships Across Domains (RAD) (Sergi y cols, 2009):
Evaluates social perception. This is a 75-item test designed to measure the subject’s ability to perceive discrete social signals, such as posture or hand gestures. It presents, in the form of vignettes, 25 social interactions carried out between a man and a woman. After the presentation of each bullet, three questions are asked about possible behaviors that could be carried out by the members of the couple presented, and it should be inferred whether the characters would carry out these behaviors.
It consists of 12 cards that, in turn, describe different social situations (e.g., going to the movies, shopping). In the application of this test two variables are manipulated, the first is the extension of the sequence presented, which can be short or long sequences. The second is the contextual information offered beforehand to the subject, since some cards are titled and others are not. The time spent by the subject to complete the task and the number of consecutive correct actions are the factors taken into account to assess the execution of the task.
Situational Features Recognition Test (SFRT) (Corrigan and Green, 1993; Corrigan, Buicam and Toomey, 1996):
Measures social knowledge. It is a paper-and-pencil test in which participants are asked to identify characteristics from a list of five situations that may be familiar to the subject (e.g., reading in a library), and four others that may be difficult for the subject to understand (e.g., building an igloo). The list to be completed includes six characteristics and eight distracting elements which, in turn, correspond to actions, roles, rules and objectives related to each of the situations exposed.
Deficits in schizophrenia
Ruiz et al (2006) report that within the two phases that integrate social perception, patients diagnosed with schizophrenia show the greatest deficits in which it is decided whether the behavior is due to stable states or situational factors, due to their difficulty in modifying first impressions.
Several investigations have shown that the capacity of these patients to use contextual information is deficient (Penn et al., 2002), and they invest more time in the less relevant characteristics (Phillips and David, 1998) and show important deficits when capturing abstract or unfamiliar information (Nuechterlein and Dawson, 1984). All these aspects contribute to a poor perception of relevant social stimuli.
- Ambady, N., Hallahan, M., y Rosenthal, R. (1995). On judging and being judged accurately in zero-acquaintance situations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(3), 518-529.
- Bellack, A. S., Blanchard, J. J., y Mueser, K. T. (1996). Cue availability and affect perception in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 22(3), 535-544.
- Corrigan, P. W., y Addis, I. B. (1995). The effects of cognitive complexity on a social sequencing task in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 16(2), 137-144
- Corrigan, P. W., Buicam, B., y Toomey, R. (1996). Construct validity of two test of social cognition in schizophrenia. Psychiatry Research, 63(1), 77-82
- Corrigan, P. W., y Green, M. F. (1993). Schizophrenic patient’s sensivity to social cues: the role of abstraction. American Journal of Psychiatry, 150(4), 589-594
- Green, M. F., y Horan, W. P. (2010). Social cognition in schizophrenia. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(4), 243-248.
- Green, M. F., Olivier, B., Crawley, J. N., Penn, D. L., y Silverstein, S. (2005). Social cognition in schizophrenia: recommendations from the measurement and treatment research to improve cognition in schizophrenia new approaches conference. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 31(4), 882-887.
- Newman, L. S., y Uleman, J. S. (1993). When are you what you did? Behavior identification and dispositional inference in person memory, attribution, and social judgment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19(5), 513-525.
- Nuechterlein, K. H., y Dawson, M. E. (1984). Information processing and attentional functioning in the developmental course of schizophrenics disorders. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 10(2), 160-203.
- Penn, D. L., Ritchie, M., Francis, J., Combs, D., y Martin, J. (2002). Social perception in schizophrenia: the role of the context. Psychiatry Research, 109(2), 149-159
- Phillips, M. L., y David, A. S. (1998). Abnormal visual scan paths: a psychological marker of delusions in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 29(3), 235-245.
- Rosenthal, R., Hall, J. A., DiMatteo, M. R., Rogers, P. L., y Archer, D. (1979). Sensitivity to nonverbal communication: the PONS test. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Ruiz, J. C., García, S., y Fuentes, I. (2006). La relevancia de la cognición social en la esquizofrenia. Apuntes de Psicología, 24(1-3), 137-155
- Sergi, M. J., Fiske, A. P., Horan, W. P., Kern, R. S., Kee, K. S., Subotnik, K. L., y Green, M. F. (2009). Development of a measure of relationship perception in schizophrenia. Psychiatry Research, 166(1), 54-62.
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