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Semantic priming and schizotypal personality: reassessing the link between thought disorder and enhanced spreading of semantic activation

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Article numbere9511
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/07/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Peerj
Volume8
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

The term schizotypy refers to a group of stable personality traits with attributes similar to symptoms of schizophrenia, usually classified in terms of positive, negative or cognitive disorganization symptoms. The observation of increased spreading of semantic activation in individuals with schizotypal traits has led to the hypothesis that thought disorder, one of the characteristics of cognitive disorganization, stems from semantic disturbances. Nevertheless, it is still not clear under which specific circumstances (i.e., automatic or controlled processing, direct or indirect semantic relation) schizotypy affects semantic priming or whether it does affect it at all. We conducted two semantic priming studies with volunteers varying in schizotypy, one with directly related prime-target pairs and another with indirectly related pairs. Our participants completed a lexical decision task with related and unrelated pairs presented at short (250 ms) and long (750 ms) stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs). Then, they responded to the brief versions of the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire and the Oxford-Liverpool Inventory of Feelings and Experiences, both of which include measures of cognitive disorganization. Bayesian mixed-effects models indicated expected effects of SOA and semantic relatedness, as well as an interaction between relatedness and directness (greater priming effects for directly related pairs). Even though our analyses demonstrated good sensitivity, we observed no influence of cognitive disorganization over semantic priming. Our study provides no compelling evidence that schizotypal symptoms, specifically those associated with the cognitive disorganization dimension, are rooted in an increased spreading of semantic activation in priming tasks.