SATO Wataru Laboratory

Exaggerated perception of facial expressions is increased in individuals with schizotypal traits

(Uono, Sato, & Toichi: Sci Rep)

Emotional facial expressions are indispensable communicative tools, and social interactions involving facial expressions are impaired in some psychiatric disorders.
Recent studies revealed that the perception of dynamic facial expressions was exaggerated in normal participants, and this exaggerated perception is weakened in autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Based on the notion that ASD and schizophrenia spectrum disorder are at two extremes of the continuum with respect to social impairment, we hypothesized that schizophrenic characteristics would strengthen the exaggerated perception of dynamic facial expressions.

To test this hypothesis, we investigated the relationship between the perception of facial expressions and schizotypal traits in a normal population.
We presented dynamic and static facial expressions, and asked participants to change an emotional face display to match the perceived final image.

The presence of schizotypal traits was positively correlated with the degree of exaggeration for dynamic, as well as static, facial expressions.
Among its subscales, the paranoia trait was positively correlated with the exaggerated perception of facial expressions.

These results suggest that schizotypal traits, specifically the tendency to overestimate another's mental state, exaggerate the perception of emotional facial expressions.

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