Scientific article
Open access

Apathy in schizophrenia as a deficit in the generation of options for action

Published inJournal of Abnormal Psychology, vol. 124, no. 2, p. 309-318
Publication date2015

Negative symptoms are a core feature of schizophrenia and have been grouped into 2 factors: a motivational factor, which we refer to as apathy, and a diminished expression factor. Recent studies have shown that apathy is closely linked to functional outcome. However, knowledge about its mechanisms and its relation to decision-making is limited. In the current study, we examined whether apathy in schizophrenia is associated with predecisional deficits, that is, deficits in the generation of options for action. We applied verbal protocol analysis to investigate the quantity of options generated in ill-structured real world scenarios in 30 patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and 21 healthy control participants. Patients generated significantly fewer options than control participants and clinical apathy ratings correlated negatively with the quantity of generated options. We show that the association between measures of psychopathology and option generation is most pronounced in regard to apathy symptoms and that it is only partially mediated by deficits in verbal fluency. This study provides empirical support for dysfunctional option generation as a possible mechanism for apathy in schizophrenia. Our data emphasize the potential importance of predecisional stages in the development and persistence of apathy symptoms in neuropsychiatric disorders and might also inform the development of novel treatment options in the realm of cognitive remediation.

  • Adult
  • Apathy/physiology
  • Decision Making/physiology
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Schizophrenia/physiopathology
Affiliation Not a UNIGE publication
Citation (ISO format)
HARTMANN, Matthias N et al. Apathy in schizophrenia as a deficit in the generation of options for action. In: Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2015, vol. 124, n° 2, p. 309–318. doi: 10.1037/abn0000048
Main files (1)
Article (Accepted version)
ISSN of the journal0021-843X

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