A word is worth a thousand pictures: A 20-year comparative analysis of aberrant abstraction in schizophrenia, affective psychosis, and non-psychotic depression
Rosen C, Harrow M, Tong L, Jobe TH, Harrow H. A word is worth a thousand pictures: A 20-year comparative analysis of aberrant abstraction in schizophrenia, affective psychosis, and non-psychotic depression. Schizophr Res. 2021;238:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2021.09.005.
Abstract thinking is a cognitive process that involves the assimilation of concepts reduced from diffuse sensory input, organized, and interpreted in a manner beyond the obvious. There are multiple facets by which abstraction is measured that include semantic, visual-spatial and social comprehension. This study examined the prevalence and course of abstract and concrete responses to semantic proverbs and aberrant abstraction (composite score of semantic, visual-spatial, and social comprehension) over 20 years in 352 participants diagnosed with schizophrenia, affective psychosis, and unipolar non-psychotic depression. We utilized linear models, two-way ANOVA and contrasts to compare groups and change over time. Linear models with Generalized Estimation Equation (GEE) to determine association. Our findings show that regardless of diagnosis, semantic proverb interpretation improves over time. Participants with schizophrenia give more concrete responses to proverbs when compared to affective psychosis and unipolar depressed without psychosis. We also show that the underlying structure of concretism encompasses increased conceptual overinclusion at index hospitalization and idiosyncratic associations at follow-up; whereas, abstract thinking overtime encompasses increased visual-spatial abstraction at index and rich associations with increased social comprehension scores at follow-up. Regardless of diagnosis, premorbid functioning, descriptive characteristics, and IQ were not associated with aberrant abstraction. Delusions are highly and positively related to aberrant abstraction scores, while hallucinations are mildly and positively related to this score. Lastly, our data point to the importance of examining the underlying interconnected structures of 'established' constructs vis-à-vis mixed methods to provide a description of the rich interior world that may not always map onto current quantitative measures.